From Date My Mom to Plain Jane: the MTV shows we don't need rebooted

The relaunch of The Hills will be followed by a new take on Making the Band, which makes us fear which misjudged series will be brought back next

Remember O Town? Danity Kane? Donnie Klang? No, of course you don’t, because they were all groups formed through MTV’s reality series Making the Band, and as such were only ever created to be empty ephemera. They were products of the bad old age of reality TV, designed to be consumed and forgotten in an instant. To remember any of these groups would be to admit that your brain works incorrectly.

But you know who hasn’t forgotten about these groups? Diddy. Because Diddy was Making the Band’s Donald Trump figure, and he’s just decided to bring the whole show screaming back into the now. On Diddy’s say-so, MTV has announced that it is resuscitating Making the Band next year, allowing a new group of would-be popstars to Hunger Games their way to success in the howling vortex that is the music industry in 2019.

Why is Making the Band making a return? Is it because the world struggles to cope without Donnie Klang? No, it’s simply because that’s just how things work now. All the bad old reality shows from the past are retching their way back on to our screens. The Hills went away for nine years and then returned as The Hills: New Beginnings. Temptation Island came back after 16 years in the dark. Even Paradise Hotel is back, even though most people hated it in 2003 and everyone hated it in 2008. Quibi – the mobile-only streaming service destined to become the next OnCue – has announced revivals of both Punk’d and Singled Out.

At first, this news might make your heart sink. These reality revivals are just another sign that culture as we know it has run out of ideas. It’s just a raked-over landfill of old shows, warmed up and pulverised and ready to be spoon-fed back to us. This is as bad as it gets, right?

Call me an optimist, but I disagree. To be clear, these zombie reality shows are nothing to celebrate. They’re badly-made crud, designed to fill space and patronise the stupid. There is not a single redeeming quality about any of them. They are terrible. But what I’m saying is this: it could be so much worse.

Because I remember MTV’s prime-era crop of reality output, and believe me when I say that these revived shows are the best of them. Compared with the rest of the heaving morass of concussed balderdash lobbed out over the years, Making the Band is a masterpiece. The Hills is Hamlet. Temptation Island is Breaking Bad having sex with The Sopranos on toast. Sure, television has run out of ideas. But it won’t have really run out of ideas until it brings back the following.

Friendzone, 2011-2013

An extravaganza of sexual entitlement, Friendzone was a dating show where one person would go to great lengths to tell their best friend that they were in love with them the whole time, and that their friendship was simply a fraudulent construct designed to lull them into a false sense of security. A horror film in all but name, if Friendzone was revived today it’d be called Nightmare Incel Bonanza.

Date My Mom, 2006-2008

You’re a man. Three unseen women are vying for your affection. The only way you get to pick between them is by hanging out with their mothers for the afternoon. Welcome to Date My Mom, the dating show where women are treated like possessions to be seamlessly handed from their parents to their future husbands. Basically The Handmaid’s Tale.

Plain Jane, 2010-2011

I guarantee that someone, as we speak, is pitching the Plain Jane revival. Because Plain Jane is essentially Queer Eye, albeit a version of Queer Eye that doesn’t attempt to improve society by charmingly dismantling the rigid structures of traditional masculinity, and instead just transforms a normal-looking woman into a Bratz doll so that boys will want to have sex with her. Hopefully their pitches will fail.

I Want a Famous Face, 2004-2005

In which participants reveal that they’ll only be happy if they look like Jessica Simpson or Pamela Anderson or Elvis Presley. A different, better show would spend time locating the root of this dysmorphia and spend time gradually rebuilding their shattered self-esteem. But not I Want a Famous Face. Instead, I Want a Famous Face shoved them through a round of expensive and painful plastic surgery until they achieved their goal of looking like their hero, or at least a wincing Claymation version of their hero.

The X Effect, 2007-2009

A couple splits up, but they still have complicated feelings for each other. The X Effect takes them for a weekend away to see whether they are able to rekindle their love. And now for the unnecessarily cruel twist: while this is happening, the couple’s actual current partners, who they managed to move on with, are secretly watching them. Perhaps the tawdriest television show of all time, if The X Effect were revived today it’d be called Cucks Ahoy.


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

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