America is Not Ready for Love

G and I have the TV on while we’re working in the living room. Don’t worry, it’s not like we’re doing anything important like finding someone the perfect home or determining the future of local government. I look up thinking I must have been writing the last sentence for hours as the programme has changed. I put my head down again and before I know it we’ve moved on to something else. I ask G if she went through with the surgery to get the remote chip installed in her brain. It’s not scheduled until next Thursday. So what’s happening?

There should have been a question mark where Eva Longoria was.

We’re watching Ready for Love, NBC’s new dating show. Or rather we’re watching Blind Date and Take Me Out closely followed by The Bachelor and Millionaire Matchmaker. It’s shopping mall television; all your favourite programmes under one roof. Unfortunately, the storeroom’s empty and the stock’s limited to what you see in the window. Each sequence is edited briskly in order to cram in all the various formats and create the illusion of pace in a 2-hour show. So what the viewer actually gets is a severely truncated cut-down of a pre-existing format that’s barely recognisable and lacks the original’s appeal.

Name the dating show…all of them!

In scenes eerily reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers women are delivered by pods into a studio. A man is then introduced via a video segment done in the style of a Just-for-Men commercial. The man is brought into the studio but cannot see the women and has to judge compatibility from their words, though superficiality has already been applied at the screening stage so no body-type surprises here. The podspawn that are not eliminated (apparently by incineration in the basement) are then imprisoned in a house together awaiting date-release and then the one with a personality goes home.

The women of the pod!

Periodically, the contestants are mentored by a panel of matchmakers, one of whom is played by a graduate Harry Potter interning at a stockbroker firm. Their advice is uniformly terrible, steering the women away from genuine self-expression and the men from picking a partner with a modicum of self-respect. At least the matchmakers on other dating programmes pay lip service to the contestants not picking women based entirely shallowly but here individuality is ruthlessly pruned like a weed.

What Harry did next…

NBC has already announced that it will cancel Ready for Love after only 3 airings. I’m no fan of snap cancellations nor the increasingly chop-happy actions of the networks but when a programme is so shamelessly derivative and cynically leeches off the success of other formats without putting anything new on the table, it is richly deserved. There is also something deeply offensive about continuing to promote the harem approach to dating. While the dating show is no stranger to giving a man his choice of women with no recourse in the other direction, Ready for Love does this unthinkingly.

‘Have the women incinerated’

I’m fully aware Ready for Love didn’t start the balls rolling on the sister-wife format. Though The Bachelor, from which this tradition sprung, had the good grace to turn the tables with The Bachelorette where men get the cattle market treatment. I know mutual exploitation isn’t exactly progressive gender politics but it’s better than dick all. Millionaire Matchmaker in which women are routinely subjected to the kind of bodily scrutiny one would typically see at a slave auction is still a reporting of what happens within an industry where women are demeaned, even if the producers don’t comment on the abnormality.

The Bachelorette: both genders exploited!

Take Me Out is another dating show where women outnumber men but for much of the process women have the upper hand even if the power of selection ultimately reverts to the man. Ready for Love seems to have no such compunctions and seems to want to add to the surplus of single, unfulfilled women left by dating shows as they whizz through the contestants with ruthless efficiency. It’s just as unforgiving for women who express qualms about how appropriate the format is for forging a healthy relationship. If you’re not willing to pander to male ego, please step aside.

Take Me Out: where women are in control…most of the time.

Though TV may seem like a sausage machine of recycled formats at times, the truth is that programmes which simply imitate other shows without useful variation will always fail miserably. Ready for Love didn’t make an argument for why it should be watched instead of its forbearers, except convenience and bulk buying, which given that the viewer doesn’t have to travel more than a few channels, isn’t really a selling point.

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