The title tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Dating Naked, a reality show that aired on VH1 between 2014 and 2016. Singles flew to tropical locales, stripped nude, then went on jet-skiing and horseback-riding dates in their birthday suits.
The provocative show seemed to be plagued by problems from the beginning. A contestant whose genitals weren’t fully blurred found her private parts splashed all over the internet and sued for $10 million, while parents groups were appalled by the show’s sexual nature and successfully campaigned for advertisers to jump ship. Meanwhile, contestants faced on-the-job hazards that included bug bites and sunburn in very uncomfortable areas.
But ultimately, while the premise got a lot of buzz, the ratings didn’t reflect that, and the show was dumped after only three seasons. Check out some of the many problems that could have led to Dating Naked‘s downfall.
Bites and burns
No paradise is perfect, and the tropical locales where Dating Naked filmed didn’t just host the production cast and crew — the locations were also home to swarms of mosquitoes. When the show first premiered, host Amy Paffrath talked to USA Today about shooting in Panama.
"The bugs are insane. We have all been eaten alive. We’ve tried everything," she said. "You’ve got the natural remedies from the locals — try coconut oil, try this cream my husband makes. But it’s just going to happen no matter what you do. My remedy is wearing pants."
And when it came to the contestants who couldn’t wear pants? Amy said, "They’ve got bug bites in interesting places."
If itchy welts below the belt don’t horrify you enough, imagine getting a sunburn there too. Season 2 star Kerri Cipriani told the Tampa Bay Times that her co-star Chris fell victim to "gnarly burns [on his rear]."
Parents lost their minds
A vocal contingent of offended parents was completely appalled by Dating Naked, and it was more than just the nudity that bothered all those moms and dads.
The prime-time television show was rated TV-14, a fact that the Parents Television Council (PTC) watchdog group called "downright disgusting." It dubbed the reality show "prurient," and not only because everyone was walking around nude. They pointed out that graphic sexual conversations about everything from genital jewelry to oral sex were common on the show.
Meanwhile, the conservative group One Million Moms dubbed the show "horrendous" and argued, "Even though the frontal body parts are blurred out, showing so much skin leaves nothing to the imagination and is soft porn."
Both groups clobbered VH1 in the pocketbook by pressuring advertisers to boycott the show. When the series was eventually not renewed, both the PTC and One Million Moms cheered. PTC President Tim Winter said, "This is a victory for everyone who spoke out about the harmful content of Dating Naked."
Advertisers got cold feet
After parents started protesting Dating Naked, it wasn’t long before advertisers started dropping like flies. According to AdAge, some brands said they hadn’t even known that their ads were airing on the sexually provocative show.
Mondelez, the parent company of Oreos, Chips Ahoy!, Triscuit, Nabisco, and Cadbury, claimed to have had no idea. A representative for the company reportedly told the Parents Television Council (PTC), "We have specific guidelines in place to help steward our media spend, which should prevent our ads from appearing in this type of programming." The rep added, "We have directed our media partner to ensure that we do not run advertising for any of our brands on this program in the future."
Other brands who reportedly pulled out included Dial and Right Guard. PTC President Tim Winter tied the show’s ultimate cancellation to the disgruntled advertisers, saying, "By the end of the season more than 90 percent of the show’s corporate advertisers were gone — proving once again that without advertising dollars, television networks cannot afford to keep harmful content on the air."
The ‘naked wedding’ wasn’t actually legal
Dating Naked finished Season 1 with a clothing-optional wedding. That’s right, two of the participants decided to wed a scant two months after meeting during a nude surfing date, but there was a catch that kind of made the whole episode a bust — the ceremony was not legally binding.
Despite it being billed as a wedding by VH1, "bride" Ashley told Entertainment Weekly it was a commitment ceremony. "It’s a ceremony of love," she explained. "I don’t think you need a document that is issued by the state to say that you care for someone."
Moreover, "groom" Alika didn’t even tell his parents about the big day. "My mom’s really Christian. She’ll be like, ‘You’re going to go hell! You need to pray to Jesus tonight!’"
A former contestant named Kristen talked to Entertainment Weekly about taking the plunge. "When you’re naked, you don’t judge anyone by their clothes. You have to really get to know the person and that’s why these relationships are working."
A 45-year age difference
Most of the couples paired on Dating Naked fell into the same general age range, but when 24-year-old Season 3 contestant Natalie spied one of her dates, she was shocked. Her companion for the afternoon was Bob, a 69-year-old carnival concessions owner known for his corn, as in "Bob’s Cobs." She admitted, "When I first saw him coming around the corner, I thought, ‘Oh my God.’"
But none of that hesitation seemed to register with Bob. "I think she likes older men," he mused, saying he wasn’t "worried about the younger guys in the house."
The two sprayed each other with booze-filled squirt guns, and Bob commented, "I noticed that she had a belly button ring, so I just focused on that, and blasted away!"
They later toasted with colorful cocktails while lounging in the surf, and by the end of the date, Natalie admitted, "Bob is actually pretty awesome, and his butt isn’t so bad for an old man." That said, the not-so-bad derriere didn’t entice her to take the relationship with Bob to the next level.
The show got dumped
While Dating Naked hasn’t appeared on VH1 since 2016, the network never came out and said it was canceled. Instead, VH1 President Chris McCarthy implied that it didn’t fit with his channel’s plans for the future.
In a 2017 interview with Deadline, McCarthy declined to say the show was over for good but admitted there were no plans for a fourth season.
He expressed his support for the show by saying, "We think it’s a great, fun format." But he followed that up by demurring, "We would like the opportunity at some point to reinvent it, but for right now we felt the shows and assets that we have made more sense as we head into the year."
Sounds an awful lot like Dating Naked got dumped — VH1 thought it was super "fun" but just didn’t see a future with it. It’s not you. It’s us. Okay, it’s you.
The ratings were not … great
Despite all the drama and trauma surrounding Dating Naked, the show’s ultimate demise might have a very simple cause — not enough people tuned in.
Entertainment Weekly reported in 2014 that the show’s hugely hyped premiere only enticed about 800,000 viewers, far less than other shows airing on VH1 at the time. As a contrast, the mag reported that Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta was pulling in a whopping 3.5 million viewers per episode at the time.
Things didn’t improve as the seasons continued, and Entertainment Weekly reported that its ratings were still bad at the end of the show’s run.
Ultimately, while an endless parade of young, hot, single nudes generated a lot of buzz, the sexually provocative premise just wasn’t enough to make people watch, and no network is going to hang on to a show that doesn’t bring in the numbers. Sounds like it was a case of: no shirt, no shoes, no viewers.