The Most Controversial Reality Shows Ever

Reality TV has become ingrained into the fabric of our society. The genre has come a long way since the early success of shows like "Survivor" and "Big Brother." By turns intriguing and thrilling, while making a household name of many a B-list celebrity all while satisfying our voyeuristic tendencies, these shows have served as a portal into a more exciting life. However, there have been a few reality series that have toed the line of over-the-top and downright controversial. Here, a few of the reality shows that have shocked and awed us from their debut. 

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"The Anna Nicole Show"

Anna Nicole Smith Party to Launch her New Clothing Line
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Former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith was no stranger to controversy by the time her eponymous reality show hit the air in 2002. The buxom blonde had already earned notoriety for her relationship with 89-year-old oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall, with whom she had a 63-year age gap. While their one-year marriage and his subsequent death weren't captured by her show, there was plenty of wild behavior that the cameras did catch, from her uncomfortably close relationships with her lawyer, Howard K. Stern, and ​personal assistant, to her ongoing feud with her interior decorator, Bobby Trendy. 

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"Kid Nation"

What could go wrong when adults send a group of kids into the desert and force them to create their own society? A lot, apparently. "Kid Nation" will go down in history as one of reality TV's most bizarre experiments, a "Lord of the Flies"-esque lesson in how to anger a lot of viewers. After talk of an investigation into the show's child labor law compliance, a writer's strike, and some pretty serious backlash, the show was canceled after a single season. 

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"Toddlers & Tiaras"

Eden Wood Hands Out Nuchas In Times Square
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The world has very mixed feelings about beauty pageants, and when you throw young children into the mix, it's a recipe for some serious controversy. TLC's "Toddlers & Tiaras" has been slammed as exploitative and creepy by critics, particularly after an episode starring a little girl dressed as Julia Roberts' prostitute character from 'Pretty Woman,' but it's clear that the fans just couldn't get enough, providing a large enough audience to have the network renew the show for six seasons. 

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"The Swan"

The premise of "The Swan" was as groundbreaking as it was offensive: Isolate a group of homely women from their loved ones until they've had enough plastic surgery and life coaching to become unrecognizable. Despite the outrage the show caused, it actually managed to get a second season before being canceled. 

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Megan Wants a Millionaire

Megan Hauserman Hosts Playground
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A beautiful woman seeking love on TV is hardly a groundbreaking idea, but VH1's "Megan Wants a Millionaire" had a surprising twist: a murderer in their midst. Unbeknownst to protagonist Megan Hauserman, one of her would-be beaus, Ryan Jenkins, would go on to murder and mutilate his wife, Jasmine Fiore, before committing suicide. The show was canceled after three episodes.

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"My Husband's Not Gay"

Initially pitched as a reality series, this look at Mormon men married to women but harboring same-sex attraction was so controversial that it was cut down to a one-hour special before it ever saw the light of day. While think pieces about the potential damage to the LGBT community this kind of program could cause were plentiful prior to and up to the show's air date, many leaders in the LDS church firmly backed its message.

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"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo"

'Growing Up Hip Hop' Atlanta Premiere
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A spin-off of "Toddlers & Tiaras" focusing on pageant contestant Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson, the show was panned by critics and viewers alike for its alleged exploitation of Thompson's working-class southern family. While the family's crassness, their penchant for activities like mud bogging, or their less-than-healthy eating habits (a ketchup and butter sauce on pasta earned them particular ire), none of these were the straw that broke the camel's back--that honor went to matriarch June "Mama June" Shannon's rekindled relationship with the sex offender who allegedly molested her daughter. 

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"Are You Hot?"

"Are You Hot?" was billed as the search for America's sexiest people, but it turned out to be just a parade of shirtless guys and bikini-clad women having their self-esteem knocked down a peg or two. It turns out that, despite the copious flesh on display, viewers didn't find this format as appealing as producers had hoped and it was canceled after just one season.

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"19 Kids & Counting"

The Duggar Family
19 Kids & Counting stars the Duggar Family. D Dipasupil/Getty Images

The Arkansas-based Duggar clan may have seemed unconventional, what with their ever-expanding brood, but few could have imagined the secrets this supersized family was hiding behind closed doors. After reports surfaced claiming Josh Duggar had molested a number of young women, including some of his own sisters, TLC canceled the supposedly family-friendly series. Currently, the spin-off "Counting On" initially focusing on sisters Jill and Jessa Duggar and expanding to feature the other family members (minus Josh) airs on TLC.

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"Teen Mom"

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Bristol Palin and 'Teen Mom' stars Maci Bookout and Farrah Abraham attend' The Harsh Truth: Teen Moms Tell All' Town Hall in May 2010. Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images

MTV's "Teen Mom" and its spin-offs, "Teen Mom 2," and the short-lived "Teen Mom 3" have been such a hit for the network for so long that it's easy to forget all the drama that's happened on them and the backlash they've caused. From Jenelle Evans' multiple arrests to Farrah Abraham's x-rated video with James Deen, these girls sure know how to stir up controversy. The public has taken plenty of notice, too--multiple news outlets and individual petitions over the years have called for MTV to stop airing the show. The dissent hasn't just come from outside sources; when Farrah Abraham recently returned to the show, many of her co-stars threatened to quit in protest.