Nostalgia Trip: MTV reality dating shows of the ’00s

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By now, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all seen/talked incessantly about VH1’s hot new show Dating Naked. The show sets up blind dates in the nude on an island somewhere in paradise. Don’t question it, just watch it.

And while Dating Naked is a true gem, I can’t help but reminisce about the multitude of reality dating competition shows I watched as a tweenager. I’d inhale a bowl of Reeses Puffs, sit in front of my pre-DVR TV, and watch hours of NEXT and Room Raiders with ads for “Floam” and Kidz Bop in between. So if you’re bored with all your programs and looking for something new to watch this week, maybe do a little #tbt to MTV from the early 2000’s.

1. NEXT

On NEXT, potential dates are brought out one at a time while the rest wait their turn in a secluded RV. The catch is that the dater can say “NEXT” to any date at any time. The action inside of the RV is filmed as well, giving the contestants a chance to debrief their dates (if they’re nexted) slash talk about all the dumb stuff people talk about on reality TV.

The show seems pretty straightforward, except there’s this weird money part that I never really understood. The potential date is paid by the dater for the number of minutes he or she lasted on the date (1 minute = 1 dollar). If the person is not “nexted,” then they’re allowed to either go on a second date or take the money and run. While most reality TV shows try to blunt the superficial aspect of blind dating, NEXT takes it head on. It’s not uncommon for characters to be nexted on physical appearance alone. That and the whole money-in-exchange-for-dating (*cough*prostitution) thing makes it the JUICIEST SHOW EVER. Truly a reality TV show must see.

This particular episode is filled with witty one liners like “Eddie was more framboiled than my hamburger.” After a half-hour date, one of the contestants is nexted for being a smoker and starts to CRY. “She was like my crafted woman,” says 19-year-old “Italian Stallion” Justin. Other highlights from the episode include 19-year-old personal trainer Allison asking “so how much clothes do you own?” (answer: like 300 shirts), and the romantic date to the dentist’s office (Allison’s really into guys with good hygiene). This date ends with the winner and Allison (romantically) spitting Listerine into the same bowl.

2. Room Raiders

On Room Raiders, potential dates are kidnapped from their homes and taken into a mysterious white van. The three potential dates are kidnapped so that they can’t clean up beforehand (genius!). I always dreamed of the day I’d be kidnapped and taken to a mysterious white van because I knew it meant I’d be on Room Raiders! The dater then raids the contestants’ rooms as the contestants watch from a TV inside the van. Before the dater makes his decision, the contestants are allowed to raid the dater’s room – woah, tables are turned. This part was always boring because the dater wasn’t kidnapped in a van, meaning his or her room is always surprisingly clean. The best part about Room Raiders: ZAC EFRON WAS ON THE SHOW.

Highlights include Zac Efron stealing a pair of underwear and saying “You like your TV’s like I like my clothes…vintage.” Zac Efron loves women who are more experienced…academically. Zac Efron probably hates himself right now. [Ed. No, he definitely really likes himself.]

3. Exposed

On Exposed, a dater interviews two potential dates while a friend of the dater observes in a hidden RV. The twist: everything the potential dates say is run through “Lie Detection Software” by the friend in the RV. At the end of an episode, the dater reveals that the dates have been recorded and run through “Lie Detection Software”; they are then asked if they want to come clean about anything (spoiler: they never do). In the big reveal at the end, the dater exposes the dates’ lies and picks between the two. The real premise of this show is to see how many times you can say the phrase “Lie Detection Software” before the end of the 20 minute episode. At the end of each episode there is a disclaimer: “The Voice Stress Analyzer is used for entertainment purposes only. It is not operated by a trained professional or under conditions that would provide a reliable means of lie detection. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of any results.” Click here for access to many full episodes.

MTV ExposedFull Episodes

The best part about this show is the smack talk that goes down between the potential dates (“Where’d you get the horse hair? Actually it’s from shut the hell up.”) In the first half of this episode, Tyler asks the hard hitting questions like: “Would you ever let a man you weren’t attracted to buy you an $80,000 car?” and “Do you pick your nose while you drive?”Based on the compelling answers to these questions, Tyler makes his decision.

In the second half, you’ll meet the two most annoying girls of all time. Tracy goes on dates with Nick and Chad while her BFF Renee waits in the van. The smack is much more tame between these contestants (“I’m going to let my game do the talking for me. What’s your strategy? I’m going to be totally rad.”) Alas, one of the potential dates lies about going to USC (did he really think he was going to get away with that?), which turns out to be his fatal error.

4. Date My Mom

On Date My Mom, the dater is set up on dates with the moms of his or her three potential dates. The mom gets to brag about their son/daughter as the dater and the mom do fun activities like “eating lunch” and “getting tattoos.” At the end of each episode, the dater chooses his or her potential date in an elaborate beachfront finale. The potential dates are revealed one at a time, each emerging from a limousine suited for the finest suburban prom. 

Full disclosure: Date My Mom is a personal fave. The show revealed that it was scripted (SHOCKER) which makes sense because these people only speak in witty one liners. If you can’t make it through all the mom dates, skip to the end. The big reveal is the best part. Each girl’s entrance is set to 4 seconds of your favorite song from 2005.

5. Parental Control

Candidates for the show Parental Control are teens whose parents don’t like their current romantic partners. Parents get the chance to set up their kid on two blind dates with contestants of their choosing. At the end of the two blind dates, the child chooses between his or her current partner and one of the blind dates. The show is explained in large block letters in its intro sequence: “My parents hate who I’m dating. So they’re picking someone new. This time they’re in control. Parental Control.” I’d like to know what parent came up with this, because my parents are never NOT in control. The parents get to watch the blind dates on their living room couch with the child’s current boyfriend/girlfriend. This is by far the best part of the show. If you’ve ever considered saying the words “you sound like a f*cking idiot” to your boyfriend’s dad in a totally not ironic way, then this is the show for you. Head here for 41 (!!!) full episodes. You’re welcome.

Enjoy the reminiscing!

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