Entertainment

A Guide to VH1's Drunk, Loud, Unapologetic Golden Age of Reality TV

'Rock of Love,' 'Flavor of Love,' 'I Love New York,' and others are on Prime, so it's time to revisit Somethin's staircase poop.
October 3, 2019, 11:00am
VH1 Reality TV
Credit: VH1

Amazon did a great service recently when they made almost the entire catalog of VH1's mid- to late-00s reality TV series available to stream on Prime. Spanning roughly from 2006 to 2010, a time period which yielded such glorious shows as Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, and I Love New York, this is, undoubtedly, an opportunity to re-immerse oneself in the golden era of trash television. Without these now-classic shows, the world would never know Tiffany "New York" Pollard, the most GIFable queen of the entire internet. It would never learn that "people who eat basil are lame," or that "stripper shoes go with any outfit," among other gems of wisdom from Rock of Love Bus's glorious (and often wasted) cast member Ashley Klarich. Truly, this earth would have been worse off had it never been privy to Tykeisha "Somethin" Thomas from Flavor of Love season 2 infamously defecating on the staircase after a clock ceremony (more on this later), or Nikki taking a test-tube shot out of Gia's vagina on Rock of Love. These contestants and their hijinks were far from the Hannahs and Laurens of The Bachelor universe, unafraid to let their freak flags wave, get laid, get drunk, be loud, and drag each other ruthlessly.

While there's now an entire universe of 90 Day Fiancé and more than half a dozen Real Housewives franchises fulfilling our raccoon-like need to devour absolute garbage, VH1's staple lineup of 00s reality TV just hit differently. These shows were unhinged in strange and hilarious ways, and remain endlessly quotable, memeable, and, now, nostalgic for reality TV fans. These characters' willingness to go to astronomical levels of absurdity and all-out, televised chaos for the object of their (heavily staged) affection remains mesmerizing, undoubtedly egged on by producers and accentuated by editors' additions of tongue-in-cheek sound and visual effects (like Flavor of Love's Hottie getting a bike chime noise every time she blinked her big, false lashes at someone).

Now, years after their sell-by date, we can joyously revisit these wonderfully subversive pieces of reality TV perfection. Here's a helpful guide to VH1's greatest shows, all of which embody the wildness of an abandoned amusement park run by feral badgers.

If it's rap legends, boss bitches, and bodily fluids you crave, get a taste of Flavor of Love.

After his breakup with 80s actress Brigitte Nielsen (their relationship was documented in the aptly titled series Strange Love, a spin-off of The Surreal Life), VH1 producers gave Public Enemy's Flavor Flav the chance to find The One on Flavor of Love, a dating series that parodied The Bachelor. Unlike The Bachelor, however, the series featured a racially diverse cast of women vying for one of Flav's trademark clocks to wear around their necks, signifying that they would advance to the next round. While many Black writers called out the show for being exploitative and perpetuating offensive stereotypes, the series was a ratings beast that lasted three seasons and led to multiple spinoffs, and the women that stepped into Flav's mansion became some of the greatest contestants in reality TV history thanks to their unapologetic, unadulterated personalities. They kept it real at all times, leading to scenes and lines that are still fondly memorialized on the internet to this day. There was Hottie's assurance that everyone says she reminds them of Beyoncé; Pumkin launching a spit missile at New York; the aforementioned poop on the staircase incident (Somethin explained that she tried to hold it, but her stomach said, "Bitch, you've got me fucked up;" Flav then applauded Somethin for being "real with it"); and too many moments from Tiffany "New York" Pollard to count. For two seasons, New York ran the other women ragged, implementing grade-A trash talk, stare-downs, and fearlessness in pursuit of her man Flav. Her iconic level of drama rendered her worthy of various spin-offs, a Brooklyn art show of works created in her honor, and a throne as the reigning as the queen of reaction GIFs. Every minute of television where the camera is on New York is worth the watch.

Watch on: Seasons 1 and 3 on Amazon Prime, Seasons 1 and 2 on Hulu

If you stan stripper heels, giant breast implants, and hair teased to the heavens, look no further than Rock of Love.

For three seasons, Bret Michaels—best known as the lead singer of hair-metal band Poison and the co-star of Pamela Anderson's lesser-known sex tape—searched America (and whatever part of France the extremely horny Angelique is from) to find his tour bus partner for life. The incessantly sloppy-drunk contestants came in hot, armed with an arsenal of clear heels, ass-cheek-grazing polyester dresses, and an insatiable desire to make out with Bret Michaels. But they were more than Sunset Strip groupies, strippers, and porn stars; they were women on a mission to get their man (and some screen time). There were standouts from all three seasons, like the big-haired, 80s metal goddess Heather, who got Michaels's name tattooed on her neck; the cackling, painfully earnest cowgirl Rodeo; and mean girl Ashley, whose magnificent implants and the way she said "bitch" made her extra larger-than-life. But those women were just a few in a kaleidoscope of big personalities, including one contestant who took everyone's used socks after a hockey match to keep for her personal use. In the end, Bret never found his true match, but the search yielded hours of premium entertainment.

Watch on: Amazon Prime and Hulu

You love Tiffany Pollard? Then you'll definitely love I Love New York.

After two unsuccessful efforts to win Flav's final clock, Pollard landed a spin-off dating show of her own_._ For two seasons, Pollard and her frighteningly brutal mom, Sister Patterson, put a group of studs and duds through the absolute ringer as they pledged their undying love for New York. Within that group were some standouts that made for excellent television, like excruciatingly dweeby white boy Mr. Boston, mouthy "stallionaire" Chance, his more tender brother Real (who tragically died of colon cancer in 2015), outspoken little person Midget Mac, Italian mama's boy Frank the Entertainer, and countless others. There was toe sucking, speedo wearing, a pretty bad nosebleed, and a fervent church service led by Sister Patterson. It was worth watching for Pollard's electrifying presence alone, but became a true carnival thanks to the full cast and their antics.

Watch on: Hulu

If dudes who look like Criss Angel get you going, pick Daisy of Love.

Rock of Love season 2 runner-up Daisy de la Hoya (yes, she is related to boxer Oscar de la Hoya) didn't leave with the man of her rock 'n' roll dreams. But the heavily lip-plumped rock chick did score her own one-season spin-off in which 20 dudes that look like they ransacked Dave Navarro's closet fought for her affection. The show also featured a set of glammed-out triplets who claimed to be Swedish rock stars in a band called Snake of Eden and enjoyed eating raw hot dogs out of the package. It's a leather-cuff and nautical-star tornado in there, and it's gold.

Watch on: Amazon Prime and Hulu

If it's a group of lingerie-clad women flipping off outdated ideas of respectability you like, go with Charm School.

Charm School sought to do the impossible: reform the hard-partying and harder-fighting women from Flavor of Love and Rock of Love, and turn them into polite, well-behaved ladies. It did so in grossly outdated ways, like telling the women to dress and behave less sexually. But the ladies fought back in every possible way, finding it hard to leave their boozing, trash-talking, and wearing-lingerie-as-outerwear ways behind them. (Bless them for that.) Hosted by Mo'Nique, Sharon Osbourne, and Ricki Lake in seasons 1, 2, and 3, respectively, the show saw contestants forced to perform challenges aimed at molding them into business-savvy, self-sufficient women, and in some cases, contestants seemed to actually care about evolving into better versions of themselves. But many others weren't even trying, and the show will be forever remembered as the one where Osbourne beat up aspiring trophy wife Megan Hauserman after she insulted Ozzy Osbourne during the season 2 reunion. Not the most charming moment.

Watch on: All seasons on Amazon Prime, season 1 on Hulu

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.