Sunday, March 19, 2017

DATING SHOWS: ANALYSIS AND HISTORY OF THE MOST MALIGNED OR GAME/REALITY SHOW SUBGENRES! (I will seriously talk about anything entertainment-based won't I?)

Something I need to do more of is talk about some of the television shows I'm watching. I mean, I give movie reviews, so you get, updated enough on that, but I do watch both regularly, so. Anyway, there's a couple series I highly recommend right now, the top of that list is "Mozart of the Jungle" on Amazon. Also on Amazon, I'm finally catching up on "24", after missing that episode in season four. I'm probably gonna alternate between that and "The Americans" in the near future. Of course, I'm loving the last season of "Girls", which I've written enough about. But, one show that I really have been infatuated with lately and one that I consider one of the best drama series on television is "UnReal"!

The first two seasons are currently on Hulu, it airs it's third season on Lifetime shortly. It's a drama series about the behind of series of a "The Bachelor"-type reality series, and it's characters are an amazing collections of the worst people ever put together, and doing the worst possible stuff people can do to other people on television. Yeah, seriously, imagine if "The Red Wedding" on "Game of Thrones" was every episode of that show, only twice as vicious, that's kinda "UnReal" feels like. I go back-and-forth on whether or not it's too over-the-top or whether it's bad taste done in good taste, but, as somebody who does know a few people who work on reality shows, first of all, most shows are not actually like this, but then again, it's more accurate than you'd probably think it is, and probably should be. I don't know it's not more popular; this is kinda like what I think all the CW drama series kinda think they are, but aren't.

So, I've been watching this when I can, and I'm looking forward to the new season. I know, some don't like the 2nd season compared to the first, eh, I can see it, but this show is already so ridiculous that I give it a pass. This show ain't jumping the shark, the shark's gonna jump it, and probably eat one of the contestants, on the way down. But it, did, get me thinking about dating shows.

Dating shows, are, kind of easily dismissed, even as a subgenre of both reality shows and even within game shows to some extent, but they've been around for awhile now. And, I've analyzed even the most, discarded and disreputable of genres, and well,... well, here's the thing, it would be around this long, if there wasn't a way to do this right, right? (Scratches head) And, well, when you really think about it; I mean, this genre's  big enough that were making drama series satirizing it. I mean, just my television history alone, I remember when "Love Connection" was one of the biggest shows on television and hell, there's like three different groups trying to bring that show back now! And honestly, I've been trying to figure out how to go from game shows to talking about reality shows in my TV Viewing 101 Series for awhile now-, (Consider this an extra credit chapter of that) , and honestly, dating shows are kinda the perfect in-between series that transitions from one to another. Basically, there's, essentially, mostly, sorta, game shows, with the goals being, love. Well, a shot a love. A potential shot at love. Part of me, disturbed at how easily they find people to be on shows like these, and part of me's just, thinking, yeah, I understand it. I mean, my vast amount of expertise and experience in dating can fit on a piece of confetti, but then again, who is an expert at dating? Literally, it's something you can't be an expert at when you think about it. What the hell, we're gonna talk about dating shows, and see if there's a way to do this right?

Dating shows. Dating show. (Knocks desk a couple times.) Well, I guess, the obvious place, hold on, when was "The Dating Game"? '65? Is there nothing earlier than that?

Researchers, is there any predecessors to "The Dating Game" I should know about?

(Looks offscreen, for a minute)

Nothing? Really? Well, if there was, I honestly can't find it, so I guess we're talking about Chuck Barris. So, "The Dating Game".

That actually is really surprising, this is technically one of the youngest subgenres I can really think of in terms of television. I can find shows dating back to the '50s and even radio, that are precedents for "The People's Court" and other judge shows; But, it does sorta make sense, actually. Most of the fifties and sixties television, really centered around the family. I can think of a few character known for dating, eh, Dobie Gillis comes to mind, but he was a teenager. John Forsythe in "Bachelor Father", which, is a bit of a surreal show to watch today. (BTW, no, he's not technically a father, he's the Uncle, but he's never-been-married, he dates, and now he's raising his orphaned niece) I mean, I guess Gomez & Morticia dated, and probably every other famous TV couple from that era you can think of, but they were already married. Characters that were dating, in order to look for love, that was not a center of a television show back, even when the characters were single and dating. I mean, I'm fairly certain Billy Joe, Bobby Joe and Betty Joe didn't originally have husbands on "Petitcoat Junction", but you know, I'll be damned if I can name them or anything. And actually that show was later too, so, yeah, I guess "The Dating Game", Chuck Barris's magnum opus, well, outside of "The Newlywed Game", which is a vastly better show, but thing is, to some extent, every dating series that's come since, is, basically a version of "The Dating Game".

That's the earliest episode I can find, but basically, one main suitor, and a few possible people they could date, and he/she picks the person they most want to date, or not. I guess there's a few shows that don't choose, but this is still, basically the blueprint for every other dating show. I mean, "The Dating Game"'s other gimmick is that you can't see each other beforehand. Which I guess, is a good idea, because it eliminates the idea of looks being the only thins that people look for. There's a lot of shows, that use this gimmick to some extent. You can't who you're about to go out with, or trying to go out, at least, for a little while. So really, it's "Blind Date", but we'll get to that show later.

Not all shows did this, for instance, a dating game rip-off, and there were a bunch of them, but one of the earliest, "Perfect Match", which you can find "Game Show Garbage" talking about, here:

BTW, "Game Show Garbage" is a great website to looks up some stuff, and while Cindi Seidelman doesn't update the Youtube channel as much as I'd prefer, and, she's fairly simplistic in terms of her presentation, this is quite a good index and analysis of game shows good and bad, and in-between in some cases. I particularly like her "Games of '90" series".

But anyway, "Perfect Match"'s gimmick, was that, instead of not being able to see your suitor, the three people were matched through, a computer. Yeah, this-, this was a thing in pop science, which is a great term for bullshit science, but they thought, and some places still do think, that you can put all of your statistics into a machine and eventually you'll meet the perfect person that matches up with you. There's dozens of variations on this, you might be most familiar with the dating service video variation on this in the game show world, "Love Connection".

God, it is hard for me to sit down and watch this show. As a kid who really enjoyed watching game shows, "Love Connection" was always a strange anomaly that I never fully understood, 'til I was much older. That's another idea, the idea that this is a clear subgenre of game shows and/or reality shows, is actually kinda new. There weren't that many successful dating shows at the time. I mean, sure "The Dating Game", and "Love Connection" lasted a long time, but they were, for the most part, the only shows in that oeuvre for most of their run, they're the only noteworthy successful ones. I mean, I guess, "Studs" lasted three years, but I don't even remember that show, and there's not too much special about that one from what I can gather. But, that's weird from a scheduling perspective as much as anything else. This was, basically considered a game show, and scheduled as such.  Is it?

I mean, "The Dating Game", for all it's cringe-worthiness some of it can be, it was still a game. "Love Connection", is almost a talk show. I mean, look at the set, there's no podiums or anything, there's a couple love seats, pun intended, and a contestant seeing a dating service video, which we see part of, they pick a date, and then, we'll, we hear them talk about the date. Yeah, they're just talking about the date. I almost watched this show as a kid, waiting for the game aspect to pop up, and it never did. I mean, there's an audience vote sometimes, and we see the figures, but...- yeah, this is a post-reality boom thinking upon it as well, but isn't it weird, that, we didn't even see the date? (No, I'm still not getting to "Blind Date" yet, but we will, I promise) Still though, it is, essentially "The Dating Game", three suitors, you pick one, boom, it's only that the focus, is on, after-the-date.

Which, yeah, come to think of it, "The Dating Game", the big win, is a date, but, we don't see it, and we also don't really find out much else. Do we need to? I guess not, considering how many, or how few, people who come together on "The Bachelor" or "The Bachelorette" or something, stay together or stay together long. Yeah, I don't know what the actual records for say, or dating services, or anything, or speed dating, and if you don't think that little modern dating trend that literally everybody has made fun of was made into a game show, then you don't remember, "Bzzz!" like I do:

That was in 1996! If there's a stupid bizarre trend in dating, there's a game or reality show based around it. Just remember that. (Boy I liked this show as a kid, but it didn't age well; none of them age well, and yes, a lot of this blog, is Youtube videos of posts, that I'm using to make a point, and sometimes freak out some of my younger readers.)  But yeah, go through through all the trends you can think of, and there's a dating show around it. Might've been a short-lived one, but they're there. Bisexuality is cool, now Tila Tequila is a household name. Thanks for that, bisexuality trend. Oh, and the reality trend, has been glorious for the dating series. Quality-wise mostly for the worst.

"The Dating Game" baseline, is still the same, and there's not that much to, elaborate or expand upon it, and that's sort of the problem, it's finding that one gimmick that's different, enough to be noticed and memorable. Not necessarily good, or good television mind you; I'll just say it now, most of these shows are, awful. Even at their best, they're bad, especially the reality-dating shows. "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" get the most blame, and deservedly so. I, genuinely don't understand why people watch those shows.

Well, I guess conceptually, I get it, 'cause the one thing these shows, have in common, is that, they do mimic, pretty well, the world of dating. I mean, think about, you're a bachelor, you're one person. You're looking for your true love, or next love, or somebody to have a one-night stand with, whatever, and you gotta seek that person out. Well, there's more than three people you're usually trying to choose from, and that's only if, that person decides, okay, sure I'll go out with you. And let's say you are looking for that true love, it's not always a direct dating path to finding them. Once you're out there, there's a lot of the opposite sex, and let's face it, there aren't true matches necessarily, but there's a good deal amount of people who you like enough to hang out or try to make it work with, or see it you want to give it a shot for a bit. I mean, you ask a few questions, you see how if they're attracted to you, vice-versa, do your personality match, or contradict perfectly..., I mean, sure these shows they're  horrible, really horrible and some of these shows, I'm looking at you, VH-1 and MTV, it's not incomparable to the dating world. I mean, I certainly doubt my experiences match up to Flavor Flav or Bret Michaels's lives, although on some train wreck level, that is interesting. They you get, the real train wreck levels of unwatchable variants on this. "Joe Millionaire" for instance, where the gimmick is that, the guy is pretending to be a millionaire. (Oooh, I just reminded all of you that that was a thing, didn't I?) Actually, "Joe Millionaire" was, not as bad as it could've been. It wasn't "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" (You just threw up a little, cause I reminded you, that that happened, didn't you?)

But yeah, most of these shows, basically have used either one or both of these additions to "The Dating Game" formula, either, adding reality/documentary television techniques and ideas to a show, with varying degrees of success and exploitation that that entails, and/or, usually, and, they simply, added more suitors. Cause, three is kinda small, so to be better, there should be more of them, I guess. (Sigh) I knew when and where that started too....

Oh, you gotta be kidding me? How is it that the only full episode of "Singled Out" I can find, the one with Sunny on it? Oh my God, this is so '90s...-, ugh, give me a minute; I gotta re-calibrate, this is too much nostalgia for me.

(Deep breath, long pause)

Okay, um, two things I have to explain to some of you before I move on. The first one, yes, this is in fact what made Jenny McCarthy famous, and yes, we're still all paying for that, although, in her defense, not only, is she really entertaining on this show, but in the mid-nineties, she, actually was interesting, funny and ridiculously sexy, and there's a very small amount of people who fit those narrow parameters at any point in the history of entertainment, somebody who's sexy enough to be a Playboy playmate and yet, much and free-willed enough to fart on you as a joke-, yes, I realize how, horrible this decision was to make a thing out of her, but-um, I was there, at the time, it really did make sense, and yes we're really sorry. 2nd thing, you're wondering, um, I know he's a bit of a major figure in certain circles now, but, yeah, I literally cannot think of Chris Hardwick as anything other than the "Singled Out" guy. Yeah,I know, "Talking Dead" "@Midnight", "The Nerdist", whatever, I don't care, even when we hosting "Shipmates", all I could think was, "Hey, the "Singled Out"'s guy's got another job,- (Oh crap, "Shipmates", I forgot about that dating show) and, when he presented an Emmy a couple years ago, mostly I thought, "Why is the "Singled Out" guy here, presenting an Emmy", in 2000-whatever-the-fuck-year-it-is! So, I'm- I guess I'm happy for him, I always liked him, seems very talented, amazed that he's still around and found this niche in front of and behind the camera, but he's the "Singled Out" guy to me, and like I said, that's not just because I remember him, this show was big enough to make Jenny McCarthy a superstar.

Anyway, so yeah, "Singled Out", was "The Dating Game", filtered through MTV, and the big gimmick was that, instead of three suitors, there was fifty. Personally, nowadays it sounds like a SAG Union pain-in-the-ass to me. I wonder how many people got their Taft-Hartley's signed from this? But, yeah, pretty much any show that's expanded from three to, more-than-three possible suitors, is borrowing that from this show. This was a big trend with the reality-dating idea, because, while I can think of a couple shows that had limited amount of suitors like, "Excused" or one of the few really good twists on the genre, "Baggage", generally, there's more than three other possible lovers in real life to sort through, so reality, essentially, follows that.

The problem with most of these reality-dating shows, and why nearly all of them are at best, watchable as trainwreck television at best, is that, well, think about it, all these members of the opposite sex, in a competition for, this one guy's attention and love. It's really, pretty despicable. I mean, "Singled Out" was just as bad, but it also didn't take itself too seriously to begin with, but the whole point of all these other shows, is that, these people are willing to do all of this, for, the possible love/sex with another guy. I mean, I understand that desire and willingness to compete for love, but the sexual politics, either way, whether it's guys competing for a girl, girls competing for a guy, even if someone competing for the same sex of a person, it's all, icky and weird; no matter how you frame this, and the more over-the-top and exploitative the show is, the worst this framing gets. I mean, I don't like uh, "Hell's Kitchen" or "America's Next Top Model" or "American Idol" most other shows like that, but at least they're people fighting for a job or a possible career opportunity, or something of that nature. Hell, at least "Survivor" or "The American Race" is a battle for a cash prize at the end, (Okay, some dating shows have a cash prize incentive, (Thanks for that, NBC's "For Love or Money" Don't remember that one? Good.) and an actual contest and game.

That's sorta what's difficult about this, and why, all these shows, rarely stand out as good, because it's taking a concept, dating, that is not really meant to be turned into a game, (Well, not unless you're a complete asshole!) and then, turning it into a game, or a close facsimile of one; it doesn't really work. I mean, I, definitely understand the triviality of love, but the whole point of the search of love is that, it's not trivial. It's not that these shows exploit that search, and the people going through it, that's not the problem in of itself, getting upset at the exploitation of love means, getting upset at, basically half of all advertising and songs and nearly every other aspect of pop culture, but instead of putting it on a pedestal and celebrating it, it, does the opposite and cheapens it. That's what makes most of these shows, bad. Some, entertaining bad, sure, but, most of them are some form of bad. I mean, it's not something that people don't experience or go through, and is hard enough as it is, and it's not like dating isn't utterly fascinating on every level. Why not just shoot people, dating?

I told you, I'd get to "Blind Date". Yeah, um, in the early 2000s, this was one of the biggest shows on TV. So much so, that I still basically confuse John Fugelsang for Roger Lodge. They look so similar, and yeah, sorry for this episode, the ones I wanted to post didn't allow me to embed them. And "Blind Date" was simple. Two singles would be paired up together, and then, they'd go on a date, and we'd see their date. It's kinda like, "Fuck you, innuendo" to "Love Connection" and "The Dating Game", but again, it wasn't too serious. The whole gimmick of the show was the animated graphics commenting on the date, a la, "Pop-Up Video" style-riffing. Now, there were a few copycats of this formula, I mentioned "Shipmates" already, there was also, "Elimidate" which was probably the worst of these, because, it was still a competition aspect to it, and there was "The 5th Wheel", which is awful, but definitely guilty pleasure awful, as it followed two sets of singles on a double-date, but a 5th wild card person would join in later....- (sigh) it's really not as awful as it sounds, it's entertaining trash. But,"Blind Date" was the biggest and original one of these shows that, did take inspiration from reality television, but not from "The Dating Game" formula. It stripped, the game aspect of the show. Just, pair two people, on a date, and see what happens. Sometimes there was a match, sometimes there wasn't much chemistry, sometimes it was a trainwreck date from Hell, but it was all about dating and the search for love, even with an occasional gentle ribbing from Mr. Obvious. Okay, sure it's completely contrived, the people on the show were probably more open and exhibitionists than they probably should've been, and are acting for the camera, and Heisenberg Principle never really goes away and, I'm sure most of the locations on the show the daters went paid the producers to put them on for the first time, and see what happens on a date. Honestly, I analytically, can't find too many things wrong with this. It's entertaining without being ridiculous and stupid, it takes love seriously, but doesn't trivializes it, and it doesn't pretend to be all positive or negative and doesn't demean anybody for there search or put them through some battle for a specific person. It shows that, dating is apart of everyday life and it's hard sometimes, and sometimes is fun and sometimes is messy, but struggles continue on. The joke was that, first you'd meet on "The Dating Game" and then go to "The Newlywed Game" but I can easily see people meeting on "Blind Date" and then ending up...-, well, considering this era of cynicism, I guess, "Cheaters". (Sigh, how is that still on the air, btw?)

It's all those other reality dating shows stripped of pretense and competition, and, frankly it's easily the best of the subgenre. Even more interesting than "The Dating Game", which, nowadays is remember for being a predecessor to Reality, for the double-entendres and for the fact that, it was a platform for dozens of future celebrities to get their embarrassing start. "Blind Date" is just, two people on a, blind date. Simple, funny, cringe-worthy sure, at times, but it's everything that, you get with dating.

So, what of this genre? Is something good gonna ever come out of it again, or is it, just gonna be, the epitome of everything bad about reality television? (Sigh) Probably the latter more than the former, but I don't think it's going away anytime soon. I'm sure some moron's gonna think 'There's Something About Miriam" is gonna be a good idea in the future and have no realization how horrible that or some of these other shows can be. (If you don't know what that is, again, Game Show Garbage has a video if you're interested, but, yeah, that-, that was awful.) But it's not like dating is going away, and neither are new ways of dating and pop dating trends and neither is the search for love in some form or another. I don't think the genre is completely reprehensible and there's good in it. I don't know what exactly it says about us, that in an age where we're more connected to the world than ever that, these are, to some, viable options for finding a mate, or what it says that finding a mate is still such a priority that we have so many shows based around that idea, and whether or not that's a good thing for society or any of the institutions that traditionally and non-traditionally the process of dating entails, but, it still feels like there's room for it, there's room for quality in it if done right, ("right" in this genre, admittedly is graded on a curve, but still....) and there's probably more unique innovations with the genre that are out there that haven't been explored yet. Most of those possibilities depress me, but who knows. If we can accept Jerry Seinfeld dating a new girl every week on his sitcom, I don't really see why we can't accept seeing it in a good reality dating show. (Again, "good" reality dating show, is the tough part, but.... [Shrugs])

Well, in the meantime, there's plenty of crappy reality dating shows, that are perfect for exploiting for drama series. Seriously, "UnReal", great show. The character are all the worst kinds of awful pieces of shit, but boy is it good!

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