From blushing Bachelorettes to face-palming Housewives, reality TV is a treasure trove of humiliating mishaps

By Lydia Price
Updated August 10, 2015 04:30 PM

Welcome to the 21st century, an era so evolved that hours of cringe-worthy moments are now immortalized by reality TV for your viewing pleasure.

Many an overly optimistic contestant or ill-advised celebrity has welcomed cameras into their lives, only to have their most humbling memories captured – or manufactured – by producers and broadcast in glorious high definition.

To celebrate Bachelor in Paradise‘s current efforts to bring everyday people’s most mortifying lowlights to new heights, we take a look back at a few unforgettably embarrassing scenes in reality history.

Clare and the Raccoon

Season 1 of Bachelor in Paradise had barely begun when one scene reached the pinnacle of editing achievement, when producers manipulated footage of Clare Crawley‘s tearful meltdown to make it seem like she was confiding in a raccoon. Like the best blush-inducing moments, what made for hilarious viewing for the rest of us was a humiliating experience for the unlucky-in-love contestant. At least Clare still has her furry companion to cry to. The raccoon made his much anticipated return to Bachelor in Paradise Sunday night, this time clutching an empty wine bottle for some liquid comfort.

Tastes like Chicken (of the Sea)?

It was a defining moment in reality TV (some might say it was a defining moment for an entire generation). It was the staggeringly oblivious line of questioning uttered by Jessica Simpson, whose antics were put on camera by some benevolent genius over at MTV. “Is this chicken that I have, or is this fish?” the pop star turned reality TV star asked then husband Nick Lachey on Newlyweds. Lachey, like countless viewers at home, could do nothing but stare in disbelief and shake his head in silence. Simpson and Lachey have long since moved on from their marriage, but the history of embarrassing moments will never move on from the conversation they shared one fateful day over a can of tuna.

Tripping into Love

There are embarrassing moments, and there are “Maybe you should change your name, get plastic surgery and move to another country (another planet if you can swing it)” levels of humiliation. Jillian misunderstanding Bachelor Chris Soules, tripping on a rug and then letting out the most dolphin-esque laugh the world has ever heard belongs in the latter category. Yet in her blunder, Jillian did a great service to romantic hopefuls everywhere – no matter how devastatingly embarrassing a date goes, we can all find comfort in knowing it will never be as bad as Jillian eating it in front of Bachelor Nation.

That Moment When Harriet Tubman Rolled in Her Grave

If we’re being honest, this moment might be more shameful for the American education system than anything or anyone. The Real Housewives of Atlanta went on an emotional tour of the Antebellum Freedom Trail in season 6, but all emotions soon turned into stunned disbelief when Housewife Porsha Williams wondered out loud where the “opening for the railroad” was. As in a literal railroad. For a literal train. To Kenya Moore, the comment displayed such historical ignorance it actually caused her pain. “It’s almost hurtful to me to watch her be so dumb,” she told the camera.

Pumkin vs. New York

During an expletive-laden (thus, very NSFW) shouting match on VH1’s Flavor of Love, hopefuls Tiffany “New York” Pollard and Brooke “Pumkin” Thompson brought fighting to a whole new, not to mention disgusting, level. Decide for yourself whether it’s more embarrassing to be spat on on national TV or be the one doing the spitting. But be warned: This is not a reality TV moment to relive while eating lunch. Neither woman ultimately got the final clock o’ Love from Flavor Flav‘s heart (New York was, in fact, rejected twice), but viewers were always going to be the real winners in this three-ring circus of a reality show anyway.

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Bachelor in Paradise

airs Mondays and Tuesdays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.