Saturday, November 10, 2007

Where Dating Shows Have Never Gone Before.....and NEVER Should Have

Once upon a time, there was "The Dating Game". Fans tuned in during primetime TV hours to watch a contestant ask three hopefuls questions in order to choose one of them for the covetted date. Simple concept, neatly packaged in thirty minutes.

Then, a decade later, we got "Love Connection". Why not bring in audience participation AND a description of the date we never got to see with its predecessor? Instead of the euphoric and hope-filled meeting scenario, why not find out what happens AFTER that, for better or for worse? Oh, and with the added bonus of Chuck Wollery asking the questions that drags the dirt out from under the rug?

Could they ever have seen where that was ultimately going? If they could, Chuck would have been booted from the business long before any of the participants picked their potential partners.

I blame VH1.

Ok, I fully admit that shows with variations on "The Bachelor" certainly did contribute to the out-of-control spiral these programs have taken. Who can forget "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?" and its disasterous results? However, VH1 had to take that giant leap into the completely ridiculous first with "The Flavor of Love". VH1 forced its audience to watch Flava Flav in "The Surreal Life", and the network should have noticed something about his completely incomprehensible train of thought there. Instead, the creators of VH1's programming decided to focus the scrutinizing lens on the frightening "convenience of the moment" relationship that "blossomed" between Flava Flav and Brigitte Nielson. It was only a matter of connecting a few dots before you got "The Flavor of Love"--and more than one cycle to boot. Then, because VH1 realized that the network couldn't justify the break-up of every one of Flava Flav's love connections, whether staged or genuine, so someone must have thought "why not bring in a chick-oriented version?" and "who better to use but someone completely outrageous from the previous show?" Voila--born is "I Love New York", currently in it's second run. And, for the rockers out there, so you don't feel left out, your consolation prize was "The Rock of Love" with Bret Michaels.

Each one of those shows had its share of hard-core personalities, cutting their way to the top, mostly for fame and recognition than the subject of the program. There were outrageous moments, people and events you don't expect, and lots of alcohol to go around.

However, nothing compares to "A Shot at Love" with Tila Tequila. NOTHING. Gotta give it to MTV for taking a VH1 concept and infusing just enough of Jerry Springer into it to truly take it to a level it never should have gone. It's actually a lot like that scene in "A Christmas Story" where the kids are standing by the pole and one of them is daring another one to press his tongue onto the frozen metal surface to see if it will stick. The two of them are going back and forth in the "I dare you" volley, until one of them skips the "I triple dare you" and goes for the "I triple dog dare you" instead. What happens? The kid is forced to lick the lamppost and out comes the fire brigade to get it off. Similarly, MTV skipped the seemingly logical next step in the process and creating a same-sex dating show and went straight for the absolutely outlandish in the form of Tila Tequila. Tila apparently is having trouble choosing between men and women, so MTV jumped on that and created a dating free for all where men and women compete for Tila's love. More alcohol than ever before, a physical fight after every elimination, and participants who make you wonder where they came from (and when they will be returning there so we never have to see them again).

Yet another reason why networks like VH1 and MTV should go back to doing what those little letters stand for--showing music videos, featuring musical performances, and generally staying entirely out of the creative programming world.