Dating game show

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Dating game shows are television game shows that incorporate a dating system in the form of a game with clear rules. Human matchmaking is involved only in selecting the game's contestants – usually for amusement value as opposed to any concern for their happiness or compatibility. The audience sees only the game; an important feature of all dating game shows is that the contestants have little or no previous knowledge of each other, and are exposed to each other only through the game, which may include viewing a photograph or at least knowing the basic criteria for participation (typically participants are not already married).

Criticism[edit]

Like other games, the outcomes of this activities are open to rigging (analogous to match-fixing in football), leading to missed matches and possibly unhappiness among the participants. These programs have also been criticised for complicating courtship with needless public expectation. In spite of this, some programs have produced episodes that portray follow-ups of unions forged therein, possibly with offspring.

Origins[edit]

Popular dating game shows were an innovation of television producer Chuck Barris in the 1970s. The Dating Game, Barris's first, put one unmarried man behind a screen to ask questions of three women who are potential mates, or one woman versus three men – thus hearing their answers and voices but not seeing them during the gameplay, although the audience could see the contestants. The various suitors were able to describe their rivals in uncomplimentary ways, which made the show work well as a general devolution of dignity. Questions were often obviously rigged to get ridiculous responses, or be obvious allusions to features of the participants' private areas.

Types[edit]

The Newlywed Game, by contrast, another Barris show, had recently married couples competing to answer questions about each other's preferences. The couple who knew each other the best would win the game; sometimes others got divorced. Once, someone divorced after appearing on The Newlywed Game got a "second chance" on The Dating Game. Gimmicks were the lifeblood of all such shows, which drew criticisms for instigating disaffections that could not have been effected.

The genre waned for a while but it was later revived by The New Dating Game and the UK version Blind Date, and the original shows were popular in reruns, unusual for any game show. Cable television revived some interest in these shows during the 1980s and 1990s, and eventually new shows began to be made along the old concepts. Variations featuring LGBT contestants began to appear on a few specialty channels.

Other shows focused on the conventional blind date, where two people were set up and then captured on video, sometimes with comments or subtitles that made fun of their dating behaviour. He Said, She Said focused not on setting up the date, but on comparing the couple's different impressions afterwards, and for their cooperation offering to fund a second date. These resembled the reality shows that began to emerge at about the same time in the 1990s.

A completely new type of dating show merged the format with the reality game show and produced shows where the emphasis was on realistic actions and tensions, but which used less realistic scenarios than the traditional blind date:

  • Temptation Island, where long-standing heterosexual couples were deliberately separated and made to watch each other's mates interacting romantically on and after dates, making extensive use of video which is the only means by which they could communicate on the island.
  • The Fifth Wheel, in which four people, two of one sex and two of another, are allowed to meet and bond to an extent, before a "fifth wheel," a person of one of either gender, but always a heterosexual, enters and attempts to break up the equilibrium.
  • Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, which actually set up a real marriage, and put women in the situation of vying to marry a millionaire bachelor. The show turned into a major embarrassment for Fox, which aired the series. Soon after the couple married, the husband was found to have a domestic violence record. Female contestant Darva Conger quickly had the marriage annulled. Charges of economic materialism or demeaning to the woman were also levelled against the program.
  • Joe Millionaire, which did likewise, with the twist that the bachelor was reputed to be a millionaire, but was in fact a blue collar worker, although the cash prize offered by surprise at the end eventually made the deceptive scenario a bit less abusive.
  • The Bachelor, where a single man got a chance to choose from a pool of 25 women, with eliminations over a period of several weeks; and The Bachelorette, which reversed the gender roles from The Bachelor. In the first two seasons of The Bachelorette, the last woman eliminated from the dating pool in the previous season of The Bachelor was given the opportunity to "turn the tables".

Commonalities[edit]

Some common threads run through these shows. When participants are removed, it is usually done one at a time to drag out the action and get audience sympathy for specific players. In shows involving couples, there is a substantial incentive to break up any of the existing relationships. In shows involving singles, there is a mismatch of numbers ensuring constant competition. This creates the action, tension and humiliation when someone is rejected. There are also reports of mercenary practice, that is, members of one sex paid to participate in the game to attain balance of sex ratio.

Series involving gay and bisexual contestants[edit]

The first gay version of these more realistic shows to receive mainstream attention was Boy Meets Boy, with a format similar to that of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. The show featured an unusual plot twist: eight of the men from the show's original dating pool were actually heterosexual men pretending to be homosexual; one important part of the plot was whether the gay contestant would be able to recognize the heterosexual men.

Some gay and straight romances have been sparked on the other reality game shows, suggesting that they too may really be "dating shows" in disguise. But any social situation has the potential to result in romance, especially work. The first dating show to regularly incorporate bisexual contestants was MTV series A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, which included both male and female contestants vying for the affections of the show's star, internet star Tila Tequila, who is bisexual.

Modern innovations[edit]

By the late 1990s and early 2000s, a new wave of dating shows began airing in U.S. syndication that were more sexually suggestive than their earlier counterparts, including shows such as Blind Date, Elimidate and The Fifth Wheel, which often pushed boundaries of sexual content allowed on broadcast television. As the 2000s progressed, the ratings for many of these shows began to decline, a situation exacerbated by the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy in 2004 as production companies out of fear of being imposed with monetary penalties by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for indecent content began censoring dating shows (and many syndicated programs targeted at the 18-49 demographic, in general) to levels in which even profanities typically permissible on television were edited out of episodes.

Since then, the dating game show has virtually died off from television syndication, though cable television networks such as VH1 have continued to air dating shows with content similar to that of the syndicated dating shows of the late 1990s and early 2000s and major over-the-air broadcast networks have tried, often with marginal success, to use dating shows that are less risque compared to those shows. Attempts to revive the dating show in syndication first came in 2011, when Excused and Who Wants to Date a Comedian? both debuted; this was followed in 2012 by NBCUniversal Television Distribution's sale of reruns of the Game Show Network series Baggage into syndication; all three shows were dropped in September 2013, removing the genre from broadcast syndication once more.

A sobering caveat of the power of television and romance in combination came when a popular dating variant of the talk show, inviting secret admirers to meet on the stage, backfired on the Jenny Jones show. The admirer was a homosexual friend of a heterosexual man who was so outraged after the taping that he later murdered the admirer.[1] The secret admirer variant of the talk show has remained popular, it continued be used on Oprah, but with less emotionally loaded surprises, and much more careful checking of the guests' backgrounds and attitudes; occasional episodes of Maury combine this format, though not always in a direct manner, with reveals of high school classmates who were considered to be unattractive as teenagers reuniting with their former school friends or tormentors as adults, after changing their image to become more physically attractive.

Examples[edit]

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]