2020 is the year when Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the mother of all trashy reality TV shows, finally dropped on Netflix India. The show is wrapping up its 20-season run in 2021, but at least it will remain available for our viewing pleasure. But India is no stranger to cringe TV – there are tonnes of such shows in the fiction space. In non-fiction, reality shows like Roadies, Splitsvilla, and the biggest of all, Bigg Boss, have been entertaining us for years now.
In its 14th season this year, Bigg Boss seems to have lost some of its appeal, while cringe binge is becoming a real thing for OTT addicts. While other streaming platforms are yet to catch on to the trend, Netflix has a bunch of reality shows that were weird and off the point. Here’s our pick of the cringe reality TV shows that added some colour and cuss words to this depressing year.
Marriages are a major deal in India, so no wonder that a show on matchmaking among the elites would actually create the most ripples. Sima Taparia from Mumbai personified everything that’s wrong and regressive about the ‘Indian matchmaking’ scene. She represented the gamut of judgmental aunties Indian single women usually dread. The show emphasises that if you don’t end up with someone by a certain stage in life, you are a big loser. The unreal expectations of the matchmaking scene exposed the hypocrisy of the whole system. It was cringe-worthy, revolting and triggering, but almost impossible to ignore. Countless memes spawned from the show and made it part of pop discourse within a few days. We’re still recovering from its after-effects.
What The Love
Before Indian Matchmaking infuriated viewers, we had Karan Johar try to play cupid in What The Love. This dating show, yet again on Netflix, was presented as a dream-come-true for participants whose idea of romance is coloured by Karan Johar’s romantic movies. What could be better than the filmmaker himself find them potential dates, right? The show’s set reminded one of Johar’s candyfloss films, and there was as much seriousness that was attributed to something way more serious and emotional, like love. The show seemed like an exercise for Karan Johar to get real people to dress up like Rahul and Tina to prove that his love ‘gyan’ actually works in real life. Easy-peasy!
Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives
Touted as India’s answer to the Kardashians, we expected this one to be as nasty and frank. Going by Karan Johar’s penchant for controversial questions on his Koffee show, one would safely expect fireworks in this one. But all we got was a toothless sneak peek into the glossy lives of Bhavana Panday, Maheep Kapoor, Neelam Kothari and Seema Khan. The women weren’t half as bi**hy as the Kardashian sisters, and every little conflict was resolved amicably. Considering Johar’s love for gloss, he sure let his friends off easy in this one. The last episode was one long drawn praise sequence by none other than Shah Rukh Khan. Not enough fodder for gossip webzines, surely, but this one is a guilty pleasure no Bollywood buff can resist.
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Love is Blind
This dating show has a unique premise — singles meet and get engaged without ever seeing each other face-to-face. 30 singles are kept in a facility in Atlanta, where men and women live separately and only get together in conversation ‘pods’, which are separated by a frosted glass divider. After 10 days, they have to either get engaged or leave. Considering the unrealistic circumstances under which people are expected to find love, the show is scarily addictive. It gets under your skin, and you’ll be surprised at how much emotional investment you have made into the lives of these participants who themselves come to doubt their decisions towards the end. I mean, you know they are set up for disaster, and you can do nothing about it, but you invest your time in it anyway. Guilty pleasure doesn’t get better than this.
Too Hot to Handle
It’s in the same league as Love Is Blind – men and women put together in a shiny desert-island retreat are expected to forgo all sexual activity. No kissing, no touching. The temptation is all there, but if you give in, the prize money fund gets reduced. The show proves reality TV has come a long way from its Celebrity Big Brother days, when a little bit of intimacy would make tabloid headlines. By taking sex off the table, that’s what Too Hot to Handle becomes all about. The show nudges the contestants towards having sex at every turn, simply for the spectacle of it. But despite the ‘hot’ premise, the show never manages to take off. Its gets preachy about abstinence, the contestants aren’t likeable, and the finale is rather blah. Not the best thing to drive off your pandemic blues, but if you are a cringe binger, might want to check this one out.