The Cringiest Reality TV Show Moments Of 2021

Even though we weren't as tied to our TV sets and laptops as we were in 2020, this past year still provided plenty of great viewing. That extends to reality shows, as well. 2021 brought us the end of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" and the return of "Real Housewives of Miami." After a long pandemic-related hiatus, "Survivor" returned for its 41st season (with Season 42 in production as we speak as well). Symone emerged as one of the best performers in "RuPaul's Drag Race" history, according to The Grio, and JoJo Siwa continued to prove that she's more than just a smile and a hair-bow. The "Dance Moms" alum not only came into her own as a part of the LGBTQ+ community, but she also came out with a movie, a tour, and the new competition show "Siwas Dance Pop Revolution."

That's not to say that every reality show this year was top-of-the-line. (The less said about Season 2 of "Tiger King," the better.) For every hug, party, and immunity idol, there was a fight, a breakup, an embarrassing weigh-in, or an arrest. 2021 also gave us two reality moments that, in their squirminess, showed how far we still have to go toward racial understanding and equality.

Read on to see our picks for the cringiest reality TV moments.

"The Bachelor" saw a Final Rose wilt under racial pressure

ABC brass patted themselves on the back in 2021 for casting Matt James, the first Black star in "The Bachelor"'s 25 seasons. But what began as an attempt at inclusion ended in a controversial train wreck. Thanks to the power of social media, contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's past came back to haunt her via old college photos and accusations of racism by former classmates (via Cosmopolitan). Host Chris Harrison offered a feeble hey-it-used-to-be-okay-to-dress-like-a-slave-owner defense, but it backfired, and he left the show. 

James ultimately picked Kirkconnell, but the "After the Final Rose" special was anything but romantic. As Emmanuel Acho moderated, a weeping Kirkconnell apologized for her past ignorance. James, on the other hand, wasn't sure he could stay with a woman who had never been judged by her skin color. In the end, he told Kirkconnell to take some time to do some "work and reconciliation." The entire hour was cringey, but it also served to inspire other POC actors and reality stars to speak their truth and launch those important "uncomfortable conversations." 

As for the couple, they had a happy ending after all: They're currently back together (via People).

"The Bachelorette" saw Katie break Greg's heart

So you really thought this season of "The Bachelorette" would be utterly drama-free? Do you mind if we ask which planet you've been living on? The franchise is famous for its twists and tears, and Season 17 was no exception. Katie Thurston was so taken by New Jersey account manager Greg Grippo that she gave him the first impression rose, and things only got cozier from there. However, during the "hometown date" segment — the last hurdle that determines the two finalists — things went sour faster than a carton of milk in Texas in July. Greg went all in and confessed that she was The One for him. Katie's response? "I just love looking at you" (via Us Weekly) Ouch

Feeling blown off, Greg left the show, and Katie almost did, too. She stuck it out long enough to accept a ring from Blake Moynes in the finale, but the couple split just two months later. Katie then went on to give a second chance to John Hersey (seen here), a suitor she had eliminated early in her season. Sometimes, you do get a second chance to make a good first impression.

"RHONY" saw Election Day drive Ramona away

For the first time in its 13-season history, "Real Housewives of New York" featured a Black cast member, attorney Eboni K. Williams, in 2021. Suddenly, the Housewives found themselves being schooled by the former Fox News host on their unintentional racial microaggressions. Williams and Ramona Singer often butted heads this season. In an early episode, Singer even made a reference to "my help," which Williams thought she'd said "the help" — as in Minny and Aibileen — and told Singer she found the term "triggering" (via E! Online). 

But the squirmiest moment of the "RHONY" season came in an episode centering on the 2021 presidential election. As Williams tried to engage her in a discussion about Kamala Harris, Singer insisted, "I don't want to talk politics." Williams kept pressing the issue, and Singer finally left the room. They eventually praised each other's strength, but the awkwardness still remained (via TooFab).

Despite the dishy dust-ups, Season 13 tanked in the ratings, but Williams blames the poor viewership on the pandemic restrictions that kept the cast from filming in their usual glamorous NYC locales (via ScreenRant). 

"1000-Lb Sisters" saw Amy get bugged

2021 saw the third season of TLC's "1000-Lb Sisters." This reality show stars Amy and Tammy Slaton, sisters from Kentucky attempting to change their lives through weight loss. Sister Amy dropped a number of sizes with the help of bariatric surgery, and she now has a baby son, Gage. However, sister Tammy has been less successful. As Season 3 began, she still weighed more than 600 pounds and was dependent on oxygen and a motorized wheelchair.

In an early episode of the new season, Amy worried that her cluttered home wasn't a healthy environment for her baby. She and her husband then hired a de-cluttering service to get the mess under control. In the process, the cleaners uncovered droppings, a dead mouse, and roaches. Amy was mortified, worried about being seen as a bad housekeeper and mother. "I try so hard not to show them in my videos and stuff, and it's so hard," she cried. Then, as the cameras rolled, a roach was clearly seen crawling into the frame (via Showbiz CheatSheet). Fans were totally skeeved, but are waiting for the rest of the season to see whether Amy can maintain a hygienic home. 

"Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" saw a Housewife get cuffed

2021 just wasn't the Housewives' year, it seems. Jen Shah, a recent addition to the Utah-based cast, positioned herself as a "Wizard of Oz" entrepreneur who specialized in data monetization. In fact, she is accused of being a key player in a major fraud scheme. For years, she and her assistant allegedly bilked hundreds of unwary victims by putting them on lead lists that they then sold to shady telemarketer companies (via Us Weekly)

A November episode of the new season saw the Housewives getting on a party bus for a girls' trip to Vail. Suddenly, Shah got a phone call that tipped her off that trouble was on the way. With unexpected calm, she told the other women that her husband, Sharrieff, was in the hospital "with internal bleeding, so [she needed] to go." Naturally, the other women offered sympathy and support — until the Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement officials arrived on the scene, looking for her. Busted! 

Shah now faces a March 2022 court date on one charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing, and one charge of money laundering. If convicted of both, she could be sentenced to 50 years in prison (via People).

"90 Day Fiancé: The Single Life" saw Big Ed up to his old tricks

One of the most popular — and recurring — stars of the "90 Day Fiancé" franchise has been Big Ed Brown. The photographer and interior designer has found the road to love to be rocky, to say the least. After striking out with his first relationship, Big Ed went on to appear on "The Single Life," dating Liz, a San Diego waitress. He fell for her quickly, but after "about eight" breakups and make-ups, they finally called it quits at the end of the season (via In Touch Weekly).

Pressing on with his quest for Mrs. Big Ed, Brown traveled to Mexico in Season 2 to meet a woman named Kaory. They were chatting over a restaurant dinner when they heard gunshots outside. Understandably rattled by the incident, Ed and Kaory turned to each other for comfort — which in Ed's case, meant urging Kaory to go back to his hotel room. Ugh. That move lost him some fans, who accused him of manipulation (via ScreenRant). However, that chapter is already history: In November, Big Ed announced that he and Liz are now engaged (via People).

The Oprah interview allowed a royal couple to make a shocking accusation

True, this wasn't technically part of a reality TV series, but it was as shocking — and perhaps more real — than any Housewives or Fiancé episode. When Oprah got an exclusive interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in March 2021, not even she could have predicted what they would say. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex discussed their decision to leave their royal duties for the sake of their mental health. 

Markle set the record straight about a disagreement she'd reportedly had with sister-in-law Kate Middleton. Then came the stunner: The couple claimed that when they were expecting their first child, an unnamed member of the royal family had made a racially-charged comment about the baby. This revelation got the tabloids busy for weeks, and sparked a feud with Prince Charles and Prince William that has yet to be resolved.