Archive for millionaire matchmaker

America is Not Ready for Love

Posted in American TV (General), American TV Shows, Reviews, TV channels, TV Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2013 by Tom Steward

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.

How to Cool Water Digitally

Posted in American TV (General) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2011 by Tom Steward

There’s an uncorrected myth in virtually everything I read, hear or see about television to the effect that no-one is watching programmes when they’re on. To many observers, the ability of those with access to and knowhow of new technology to watch TV online, as downloads and DVDs, on demand and recorded on to digital storage boxes equates to the abandonment of viewing shows when they appear in the schedule. I’ve always had my suspicions about this, and so do many of my academic colleagues. Just because people can make it happen doesn’t mean they’d necessarily want to, especially when you get vastly inferior images or deeply uncomfortable viewing conditions as a result, as I’ve always found with my ipod when craning my neck to look at a screen where everyone looks like Gary Coleman. The USA was a huge adopter of many of these new platforms for watching TV, to the point where digital recorders and video-on-demand services became commonplace. Devices such as the TiVo were marketed to Americans as a stirring liberation from the chains imposed on viewers (and other TV artists) by network executives and schedulers, as this commercial from the early 2000s demonstrates:

But the fact is digital recording almost didn’t make it in the USA. It took a good few years for sales and uptake to get off the ground, by which time the market was rapidly losing confidence in the technology and considering wiping the slate and starting again. So it’s never just been a case of the ‘the technology’s there-people will automatically leave scheduled TV behind’, even in the countries where digital platforms for TV have been the most successful. From the beginnings of TV in America to at least the 1990s, networks targeted viewers through event television and programmes that would gather communal audiences, hence terms like ‘watercooler programme’ so called because co-workers would supposedly congregate around tubes of clear liquid in the office the following day to excitedly debate the latest plot developments of certain riveting shows. Although many Americans now regularly use digital recording to watch television freely, we also shouldn’t assume that they’re necessarily using it against the traditional model of watching TV in scheduled slots or in ways that are unsociable.


Seinfeld helped coin the term 'watercooler show'

And so I found when I first went to G’s ‘Glee Night’, where friends and housemates gathered together in her living room to watch TV with snacks and drinks and Glee as the main event. Now what was fascinating about this was that we were coming together on the night the show was broadcast to watch it even though it was entirely possible to do this any night, as the show was being recorded digitally on the set-top box. This gave a certain flexibility as to when in the night the show could actually be watched, allowing for latecomers, ongoing conversations, food being cooked etc. But the point is that watching it in a group on the scheduled evening was still important. There was a commitment to preserving the shared experience and first-run viewing that came with the ‘watercooler’ programme. Rather than using digital recording for timeshifting or creating a customised schedule, as many commentators have claimed we use it for (presumably applying only to those deluded enough to think they actually are high-ranking network executives), here it was being used to bring programmes from different nights the same sense of a communal event, as if it were the ‘watercooler’ show of the evening.

Watching TV as a family

It was just like this...minus the wallpaper


So ‘Glee Night’ was also ‘Dancing with the Stars Night’, ‘Millionaire Matchmaker Night’, ‘Modern Family Night’. At least here, digital recording didn’t eradicate the excitement of watching TV as it happens in a large group; it made every show like that. The technology was making TV more thrilling, but not because we were enacting fantasies of the cold-blooded murders of network executives, but because we could do more with the old ways of watching TV. This made it even more sociable as you could stop and replay it if we were all talking and it gave more programmes exclusive treatment, as if trying to recreate the moment it was first broadcast. It struck me that watching TV with Americans wasn’t really that different than it ever was. After all, a televisual quirk of the US time zones means that programmes air at different times of day depending where you are in the country. So shifting viewing an hour or two to make way for a pizza is not exactly the end of television.

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