6 mins

8 crazy TV shows from around the world

From stealing cars in Russian game shows to The X Factor reimagined for Arab poets, these unusual (and often, cancelled) television shows from across the globe make for extremely peculiar viewing...

Mickey meets Hamas

1. Prince of Poets, UAE (2007 to present)

In nearly every respect, this is The X Factor of the United Arab Emirates, with a big stage, dramatic lights and music and the panel of self-important judges.

But instead of acts belting out Whitney Houston covers, mild-mannered folk recite Arabic poetry, often written by themselves.

The show is huge in the Arab world and controversy is not unknown. Last year’s fan favourite ended up in fifth place. His political-leaning poems didn’t find favour with the judges and there were claims that the results were fixed.

2. The Intercept, Russia (1998 to 2000)

The concept of this show was breathtakingly simply.

The producers give you a car and report it to the police as stolen. If you can avoid getting caught for 35 minutes, it’s yours to keep. Think of it as a live action version of Grand Theft Auto.

The car was always equipped with a high energy transmitter that could be tracked by the police at all times, so only a handful of people ever won. (One guy drove the car onto a raft and waited out the 35 minutes in the middle of a lake.)

And if the contestant did get caught, they'd end up on the ground with police kicking them in the ribs, just like real life. At its peak, the show pulled in 85 million viewers.

3. El Notifiero con Brozo, Mexico (until 2016)

Host Victor Trujillo, better known as Brozo the Creepy Clown, dressed as a disheveled clown to rant and shake his fists about the state of Mexican politics.

Despite his alarming appearance, Brozo’s opinions were highly respected. Indeed, such was Brozo’s clout, high profile politicians and personalities clamoured to appear on his show.

He has exposed corrupt politicians (usually by rubbing a pie in their face) in the past, and even turned the tide of elections.

4. Pentinents Compete, Turkey (2009)

In an unusual reality series, 10 atheists were to sit in a room as four religious leaders – a Muslim imam, a Greek Orthodox priest, a Jewish rabbi and a Buddhist monk – try to convert them to their respective faiths.

If an atheist was converted, they won a trip to their newly-acquired Holy Land. The winning leader, presumably, got another soul in their flock.

It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but Ahmet Ozdemir, deputy director of Kanal T, the channel responsible for the show, said that the project "aim[ed] to turn disbeliever on to God." And resurrect the channel’s ratings, no doubt.

5. Interviews Before Execution, China (2006 to 2012)

Every Saturday night in China, millions gathered around their TV sets to watch presenter Ding Yu visit a prison and interview someone condemned to die.

It sounds gruesome, but the show also featured interviews with judges who openly questioned the death penalty in China, providing an outlet for a debate that is usually heavily censored.

6. Sperm Race, Germany (2005)

And now for something completely different: a reality show in which 12 male contestants donated their sperm to a lab in Cologne, and doctors observes their ‘seed’ race towards an egg.

The owner of the sperm that got there first won a brand new red Porsche. And you always thought people driving red sports cars were compensating for something...

7. Tomorrow’s Pioneers, Palestine (2007 to 2009)

This is not your average kid’s show. Each of the characters were killed off in the war against Israel, making them instant martyrs.

Each week, a cynical and disheveled Mickey Mouse character gave the children of Palestine a lesson in how life really is on the West Bank, with episodes titled ‘Farfour and the AK-47’, and letters of the alphabet illustrated by Anti-Americanism rather than apples.

8. Whisker Wars, Norway/USA (2011)

This reality show followed a group of American beard and moustache growers as they attempted to take out the title of Top Beard in the World Championship competition in Norway.

Slightly more interesting than watching grass grow.

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