MILF Manor contestants Joey and mom Kelle (TLC)

These Are the Weirdest Dating Shows on TV

For as long as game shows have existed, there have been series dedicated to romantic relationships. Now, dating shows come in all kinds of packages, from the various titles in ABC’s thriving “Bachelor Nation” to web series where strangers kiss upon first meeting just to see what happens. Most dating shows follow similar formats: one contestant has to choose a partner from a group of singles they date across several weeks, with people being eliminated each week until it’s just the contestant and the person they believe they want to be with long-term.

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Then there are the weird dating shows that take this general format and spin it or ignore the format altogether. Whether dates are controlled by a button, or contestants are gaslit into believing they’re competing for the heart of an actual prince, there are plenty of bizarre dating shows out there. Here are 10 of the weirdest.

Beauty and the Geek

Beauty and the Geek ran for five seasons in the U.S. between 2005 and 2008. It made its way to the U.K. in 2006, then returned there in 2022, and is currently going strong. “Beauties,” who are almost always women, pair up with “geeks,” who are almost always men, to complete challenges and avoid elimination each week. The last pair standing splits a grand prize of $250,000. Basically, the show argues that attractive people are unintelligent, and nerdy people who are super smart can’t possibly be attractive, a premise that is and always has been woefully misguided.

The Button

The Button is a speed-dating elimination web series from Cut where contestants sit across from each other at a table and chat. In between them is a large button that not only talks (courtesy of a human in the booth) but occasionally lights up red. The button will interject awkward facts from the contestants’ info sheets and generally try to stir up trouble, and whenever it lights up red, the contestants can press it to either reject themselves or reject their date. If any pair lasts for 10 minutes, they get an all-expenses-paid second date.

Cosmic Love

Cosmic Love is similar to MTV’s Are You the One? in that it pairs contestants based on their compatibility. However, Cosmic Love follows four single people who each represent an element of the zodiac. They pair up based on their astrology charts, guided by the AstroTwins, a.k.a. Ophira Edut and Tali Edut.

Dating in the Dark

Dating in the Dark aired for two seasons in the U.S. It followed three men and three women sequestered in different wings of the house, similar to how contestants are kept in individual rooms in the Netflix series Love Is Blind. Contestants on Dating in the Dark can only interact in a dark room, first on a group date and then on individual dates if they choose. Slowly, the contestants learn what the others look like and, in the end, get to decide whether they will leave together or remain single.

FBoy Island

FBoy Island is a dating show hosted by comedian Nikki Glaser in which three women are tasked with discerning who’s a “nice guy” and who’s a “f-boy” from a dating pool of two dozen men. If they successfully go home with a nice guy at the end of the season, they’ll get to split a prize pool of $100,000. If they choose a f-boy, he can either share the money with her or take it and run. Each season offers different twists, but the shock of finding out who’s who is ever-present.

I Wanna Marry “Harry”

I Wanna Marry “Harry” debuted on Fox in 2014 and featured one of the most concerning and devious concepts for a dating show to date. It manipulated 12 American women into believing they were competing to marry Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, even going so far as to bring counselors on set to reconvince the women who had figured out “Harry” was actually a look-alike that he truly was Prince Harry (Matthew Hicks). It was canceled after four episodes, and the remaining four episodes of the series were made available online before the entire show was broadcast in the U.K., Latin America, and Australia.

MILF Manor

MILF Manor follows a pool of single moms and their sons—yes, you read that right—as they complete wildly inappropriate, invasive challenges as they attempt to find love with their fellow contestants’ family members. As if the general concept isn’t awkward enough, mothers and sons share rooms—so anyone who wants to hook up has to either do so with their mom or kid in the room or has to kick them out. Yikes. The first season aired on TLC in 2023 and hopefully, it won’t be renewed.

Playing It Straight

Playing It Straight debuted on Fox in 2004, then was abruptly canceled after its third episode, only to be adapted in the U.K. one year later and, with similar results. The basic premise is that one woman has to choose a partner from a group of 14 men—except she has to eliminate contestants she believes are gay. If she chooses a heterosexual man, they split a $1 million prize. If she chooses a gay man, he takes home all of the money.

Temptation Island

Temptation Island is a precursor to many of the “be with me forever or leave” dating shows, some of which are also on this list. Four couples are sent to an island where they’re joined by 24 eligible men and women. They live as if they’re single while on the island, which allegedly helps them determine if they’re ready to commit to their partner or not.

The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On

The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On is a Netflix series hosted by Nick and Vanessa Lachey, in which couples who are at odds as to whether they want to get married agree to temporarily “marry” and live with someone new for two weeks, then move back in with their original partners and then make a choice. They can either leave with their original partner, engaged; leave with their new partner, engaged; or leave single. In 2023, the show did an all-queer season that was especially shocking due to one contestant being accused of domestic violence.

(featured image: TLC)

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Samantha Puc
Samantha Puc (she/they) is a fat, disabled, lesbian writer and editor who has been working in digital and print media since 2010. Their work focuses primarily on LGBTQ+ and fat representation in pop culture and their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., and elsewhere. Samantha is the co-creator of Fatventure Mag and she contributed to the award-winning Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives. They are an original cast member of Death2Divinity, and they are currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School. When Samantha is not working or writing, she loves spending time with her cats, reading, and perfecting her grilled cheese recipe.