Is ’90 Day Fiancé’ the Worst Show on TV?

Calling something “the worst show on TV” sounds like hyperbole, but somebody has to be at or near the bottom. Does 90 Day Fiancé fit the bill?

Beauty or lack of same is in the eye of the beholder. Still, quite a few people will tell you that the very concept of the show is ridiculous. In this TLC show, foreigners travel to the United States to live with their betrothed for the first time. The catch is that the visas only last 90 days. If the couple doesn’t marry in that time frame, the international partner goes home. Literally.

Such a gambit may seem dicey, especially considering the debates raging about immigration. On the other hand, maybe that’s partly why the show has lasted six seasons and 74 episodes

Who came up with ’90-Day Fiancé?’

90 Day Fiance
(L-R) CEO, Sharp Entertainment, Matt Sharp of ’90 Day Fiance’ franchise, Molly Hopkins, Paola Mayfield and Russ Mayfield of ’90 Day Fiance: Happily Ever After?’ | Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for Discovery, Inc.)

You know those spam e-mails about Russian mail-order brides? Well, what if someone turned that idea into an entire TV show? 

That’s basically the pitch, although it didn’t come from an email. According to The List, the show sprang from producer Matt Sharp reading an article about Americans going abroad to find love. Sharp figured if you flipped the script, it would make a great TV show. The problem was, nobody would buy it. 

So Sharp dug a little deeper and found out about the K-1 visa that expires in 90 days. With that hook, TLC reeled it in, and the show became a big hit – so much so that it has spawned several spin-offs: 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After?, 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days, 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way and the digital 90 Day Fiancé: What Now?.

Is ’90 Day Fiancé’ fake? 

The concept of the show was so out there, even for reality TV, that some people assumed the show must be fake, like professional wrestling. Wrestling fans will tell you that wrestling isn’t fake, but it is fixed: the players know the outcome but don’t necessarily know how they’ll get there. 

90 Day Fiancé is kind of like that too. Like all “reality” TV shows, 90 Day Fiancé pushes certain narratives through editing and other means. But season 5 contestant Luis Mendez stoked controversy when he said the show was “more fake than real.” 

Cynics may respond: “Join the club.” But while the stories may be ginned up, the couples themselves are not. Season four’s Anfisa Nava said in a deleted Instagram post the 90 days don’t really mark the time frame the couples have to decide if they like each other. Plenty happens off-camera that viewers don’t see, she said, so the ticking clock just adds to the drama. 

That’s showbiz. 

What TV shows are really the worst?

A list on Ranker of TV shows that should be canceled is full of reality shows, with the various Real Housewives shows dominating the top 5. Topping the list is Keeping Up with the Kardashians. 90 Day Fiancé doesn’t appear anywhere in the list, although Survivor, The Voice, and The Simpsons do. A Wikipedia entry doesn’t list it either, instead of tapping the likes of Jersey Shore and another TLC show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

90-Day Fiancé doesn’t have a critics score on Rotten Tomatoes; there are no professional reviews at all. The show does have an audience approval score of  86 percent. A viewer named Nikki B writes: “A guilty pleasure – this show is best watched as a comedy. There’s no way to connect or feel sympathy for the cast because the normal viewer could not relate to this…”

Amy D may explain why 90 Day Fiancé has caught on as much as it has when she writes: “This show is a horrid example of passing an auto accident and needing to stare.”