10 of the Weirdest Dating Show Gimmicks of All Time

Here are ten of the most bizarre dating show gimmicks that predate Netflix’s Sexy Beasts

Netflix’s upcoming dating show Sexy Beasts will feature singles dating while disguised as animals, using elaborate makeup and prosthetics. The show looks odd, to say the least, but it isn’t the first dating show to employ weird new tactics for finding love. Here are some of the strangest dating show gimmicks to ever hit our TV screens, in no particular order.

1) A fake Prince Harry

Fox’s I Wanna Marry “Harry” was a short-lived show in which a group of American women competed for the affections of a man they were led to believe was the real Prince Harry. The network pulled out all the stops to convince the women of their suitor’s authenticity, from putting them up in a lavish country house to hosting fancy dates, and even surrounding “Harry” with security personnel and servants. But of course, the audience already knew that this bachelor was merely a Prince Harry look-alike.

2) Celebrity Clones

Like #1 on this list, MTV’s Game of Clones banked on celebrity appearances. In each episode, a star from another MTV show was given the chance to date seven everyday people, all of whom looked like their celebrity crush. Seeing seven nearly-identical people in the same room seems pretty creepy to me, but to each their own.

3) Will they or won’t they cheat?

There have actually been two shows exploring this question. Temptation Island on USA Network threw four couples into a pool of singles so they could see what it was like to be with other people. Alternatively, MTV’s The X Effect pitted current and former partners against each other by allowing two exes to spend a potentially romantic weekend together. Oh, and here’s the kicker: the current partners were watching the entire time. Yikes.

4) Dating in the nude

Both Dating Naked on VH1 and Naked Attraction on Britain’s Channel 4 is pretty much exactly what they sound like. The former was a traditional dating show, sans clothes, while the latter is in a game show format, with contestants gradually being eliminated as more and more of their naked bodies are revealed.

5) A pretend millionaire

A surprisingly popular show at the time, Fox’s Joe Millionaire worked almost the same as I Wanna Marry “Harry.” Rather than believing they were dating a prince, the women on this show thought they were vying for a multi-millionaire. Unbeknownst to them, star Evan Marriott was not wealthy, but instead a blue-collar construction worker. Once it got down to the final contestant, his secret was revealed. If the woman chose to stay with him despite his lack of wealth, the couple was awarded a million dollars.

6) Literal blind dating

ABC’s Dating in the Dark was just that: a show in which singles got to know each other only in dark rooms before finally being revealed in the light and deciding whether to pursue a relationship. Netflix’s Love is Blind starts off similarly, with contestants confined to individual pods and unable to see each other. Things escalate rather quickly, with proposals being the big reveal. Only after an engagement do the couples decide whether to ultimately go through with a wedding.

7) Skipping the dating altogether

First, comes love? Not so on Lifetime’s Married at First Sight. Just as the name implies, contestants meet each other for the first time on their wedding day and see where it goes from there.

8) Choosing a date based on their darkest secrets

Hosted by Jerry Springer, Game Show Network’s Baggage was bound to be a bit outlandish. On each episode, a bachelor or bachelorette was presented with three contestants. Contestants were eliminated as potential dates based on their secrets, which they presented in a suitcase. Contestants’ baggage ranged from weird to embarrassing to downright bad behavior (the one episode I watched included criminal activity, cheating, and eating bugs)! It was up to the bachelor(ette) to decide which offenses were deal-breakers, and which they could let slide. In the end, the bachelor/bachelorette would reveal a piece of baggage of their own to their prospective partner, who would then accept or reject them.

9) Mother in control

Turns out moms being overly-involved in their kids’ personal lives can make for a dating show. Whether or not said show will be good is another matter. MTV’s Date My Mom featured young singles going on dates with three moms and then choosing one of their kids to date. Hosted by Ryan Seacrest, Momma’s Boys on NBC was basically The Bachelor, but with the men’s mothers living in the house alongside the women, they were dating.

10) Judging possible mates by their room

MTV’s Room Raiders ran for 8 seasons on the simple yet bizarre premise that you can judge a person by their room. In each episode, three contestants had their bedrooms raided by a potential suitor. Based only on the contents of these rooms, the raider chose one of the singles to go out with. Better hope they cleaned up before the episode!

Will Sexy Beasts be as strange as these other shows? Watch it on Netflix starting July 21 to find out!

About the Author

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Sam Heltemes

Samantha Heltemes is a film and television production student at Loyola Marymount University and an intern for AfterBuzz TV. She is passionate about movies, art and design, travel, and food.