There is only one extended universe that is more epic than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it is TLC’s “90 Day Fiancé” and its endless spinoffs. There are so many spinoffs. Just when it seems like TLC finally ran out of ideas, they still somehow manage to make more shows, more trash for viewer consumption. All of their storylines border on the absurd, to the point where viewers struggle to discern fact from possibly scripted scenes.
There’s a pretty good number of fans watching the show. According to Forbes, viewership averages to about 3 million people watching Season 8 alone. For dedicated super-fans, the subreddit r/90DayFiance boasts nearly 300,000 users.
In a sea of terrible cable programming, “90 Day Fiancé” managed to reel in more viewers while keeping their old fans happy. The show sounds unassuming at first; it sounds like a reality TV show simply documenting the tedious K-1 visa process while showing how each couple deals with it. And although it is true, the show goes way beyond anyone’s assumption.
Part of the synopsis of the show can be taken straight from TLC’s own site: “Using a unique 90-day fiance visa, the K-1 visa, the foreigners will travel to the U.S. to live with their overseas partners for the first time. The couples must marry before their visas expire in 90 days, or the visiting partner will have to return home. They’ll have to overcome language barriers, culture shock and skeptical friends and family—all with a clock that starts ticking the moment they step foot on U.S. soil.”
For anyone unfamiliar, the K-1 visa lets foreign individuals visit the U.S. to marry a U.S. citizen, granted the citizen is sponsoring him or her. They have 90 days to get married before legally having to go back to their country of origin.
Okay, so what? The whole premise of the show seems benign and even informative. Everyone also enjoys a good love story with twists and turns hopefully ending up with the two people finally being able to be together. The main conflict of the show is set up in the show’s title itself — each couple needs to get married before 90 days is up. Otherwise, they can’t be together. They are kept apart because of U.S. immigration laws and, moreover, the social stigma surrounding dating people from foreign countries.
In short, what started out as a mildly informative yet entertaining show has in recent years devolved into an over-the-top, drama-filled mess. It wouldn’t be so bad if all the toxicity wasn’t seeping out into real-life situations and consequently ruining some of the cast members’ lives. TLC seems intent on turning a blind eye, though, while they continue to churn out more content for the general audience.
The first season of “90 Day Fiancé” premiered in 2014. Since then, eight seasons of the show have aired, consisting of 79 episodes total. Currently, TLC has produced 18 different spinoffs that derive from the original show.
The show started off relatively tame at first. Most of the drama centered around wedding planning, family issues and jealousy issues — nothing anyone wouldn’t expect from a reality show. The real turning point in the show, arguably, seems to have started in Season 2 with Danielle and Mohamed.
Danielle and Mohamed met online and soon got into a long-distance relationship with each other. Eventually, Danielle brought Mohamed over from Tunisia on a K-1 visa to live with her in Ohio along with her children from previous relationships. There’s a notable 15-year age gap between them as well as a massive personality difference.
There are lots of awkward scenes between them, including their wedding ceremony where Mohamed cites religious reasons for why he didn’t want to — I mean — he couldn’t kiss Danielle after the officiant declared them husband and wife. Oddly enough, Mohamed also went to visit a divorce lawyer earlier that day, so I suppose anything is up to interpretation.
But the moment “90 Day Fiancé” started reaching legendary heights was after Mohamed left for Florida to go “job hunting” — i.e., he went to go party it up. It’s later revealed, to no one’s surprise, that Mohamed was no longer interested in being married to Danielle.
Danielle goes on a rampage by compiling a thick binder full of evidence she gathered of Mohamed cheating via pictures and DMs by him to other women. She then drives 10 hours to Miami where he was living and gets into a confrontation with him only to end up throwing said binder at him as he’s walking away from her. Dramatic music plays as Danielle yells at him and calls him a user while threatening to have him deported.
The scene is weirdly hilarious, and TLC probably realized at this point they were hitting a goldmine, albeit a pretty trashy one. A lot of couples have come on the show since then, with each season getting trashier by the year. They’ve also ramped up the cringe — my favorite being Season 6’s Colt and Larissa — and so many memorable phrases were uttered.
Some of the couples struck some luck and returned for other spinoffs or seasons of the show: “Happily Ever After?,” “Pillow Talk,” “What Now?” and “The Single Life.” Others got so lucky, they ended up with their own reality TV shows: “The Family Chantel” and “Darcy & Stacey.”
But what makes “90 Day Fiancé” stand out from a lot of other reality TV shows could be just how relatable it is. The cast members aren’t glamorous; they are people anyone could run into at a normal grocery store. The show takes a situation most people could see themselves being in and ramps up the ridiculousness of the ensuing drama.
Some of the cast members will go beyond the show and interact with the fanbase in a variety of ways. Rosemarie Vega, for example, launched a successful career on YouTube after coming from an impoverished background and going through a horrific relationship with Big Ed. Others are nice enough to do videos for YouTubers where they will talk directly to fans, do mini-vlogs or just answer questions. Others do Cameos, or post on Instagram, and the list goes on.
Although a lot of hilarious moments can be enjoyed from the show, “90 Day Fiancé” also comes with a darker side that is hard to ignore at times.
Recently, Geoffrey Paschel was convicted of domestic assault against an ex-girlfriend. Fans caught wind of the charges made against him back when his season was still on the air and started a petition asking TLC to remove him from the show. TLC never did remove him, but Paschel also never came back to the show for whatever it’s worth. It’s worrying how many people will rally around a person accused by multiple women of assault and also convicted of those crimes; it makes one wonder if he would be so emboldened without the social media following he gained from being on this show.
Other cases of toxicity can be seen through scenes like Big Ed’s now-infamous phone call to his then-girlfriend Liz, which outed him as emotionally and verbally abusive to his partners. As if Big Ed’s treatment toward Rose wasn’t bad enough, TLC kept actively promoting him and brought him back for “The Single Life,” which is where he met and began dating Liz.
Watching events like the ones just mentioned is concerning. TLC is banking on the success of the “90 Day Fiancé” franchise, and the phrase “quality over quantity” seems to be a foreign concept to them. They seem more concerned with churning out more content rather than properly vetting potential cast members. By putting the limelight on individuals with abusive tendencies, they are actively promoting those behaviors in an allegedly not-so-serious, but actively harmful way, especially for anyone directly impacted by them.
The numerous spinoffs are also exhausting. As soon as they finished airing Season 8 of “90 Day Fiancé,” they started airing the next season of “Happily Ever After” a week or two after. After having to witness Angela at the strip club, I felt like I was over the whole thing.
It’s hard to keep caring when most of the dramatics start to feel really fabricated. The shows and memes were nice while they lasted, but now it’s starting to feel like too much of a good thing.