Archive for the bachelorette

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.

All the Single Maybes

Posted in American TV (General), American TV Shows with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2012 by Tom Steward

Most American TV is so chaste it makes me feels like I hail from a nation of sexual deviants. If Jersey Shore recalls the buffoonish innocence of an end-of-run episode of Saved by the Bell, the UK version Geordie Shore is more like the grim disillusion of Screech’s sex tape. A lot of this is down to repressive censorship practices in US network television, not to mention the deeply conservative corporate owners of some stations. But TV tends not to reflect the openness towards sex in American popular culture. Comparatively there is far more sexual repression in British attitudes, and this comes out in my vehemently prudish reaction to ABC’s The Bachelorette. Like most of the over-50 relatives that feature in the later stages of the programme, I’m uneasy with the way the show’s design promotes promiscuity whilst pushing the dogma of monogamy-as if one leads naturally to the other.

Does he have brown hair?

As The Bachelor/ette is one of the few hit US reality series that doesn’t have a British doppelganger, some introduction is required. Basically, it’s a dating version of Guess Who? Each year, one man or woman (increasingly a contestant from previous years) goes through a seemingly endless 10-week process in which they have multiple dates in various spots across the country and globe with several members of the opposite sex who run the gamut from bland to unhinged. As the series goes on, the eponymous singleton eliminates one or a couple of contestants per week by denying them a rose like some demented flower Nazi. After weeks of simultaneous and group dating-in which the show begins to eerily resemble the scene list from a porn movie-the pool is whittled down to two, until a winner emerges and becomes a fiancé. It’s a perfectly normal road to marriage…if you’re James Bond.

No Rose For You!!!

It’s now a cliché of the white noise surrounding the programme that romantic relationships between the contestants are doomed to failure. The marriages are reality TV versions of shotgun weddings, with a digital video camera with high colour contrast aimed at the grooms’ heads instead of a firearm. No-one involved with the show ever seems to attribute this to the fact that the participant is compelled to split their affections equally across partners or that the series gives the contestant a chance to try out each of the four finalists sexually in turn in the sleazily-named ‘fantasy suite’-another nod to the conventions of the sex industry. The situation flatters the producers immensely, with post-publicity in the tabloid scrutiny of the couple’s troubles and splits keeping the brand visible out-of-season. It also makes a hoard of familiar show faces single again, putting them back in the rotation for future series.

Back for a second time!

The bravado and the carefree playfulness of the contestants in the first few weeks are all well and good. But it’s when the contestants start to declare their love for each other and meet their respective families that the façade of true romance starts to look as false as the Vegas-Roman pillars that replace load-bearing walls in reality shows. As if anyone with an ounce of self-respect would continue to go through the motions of a game show with someone they cared for that deeply. It’s hard to accept that the contestants’ families would be comfortable consenting to their loved one being exposed to so much hurt. The show gets a lot of dramatic mileage out of suggesting in the editing that the parents will object to their child’s pluralistic attitude towards love. With some judicious, Bravo-style shot displacement, however, this all seems to come up dung-smelling roses in the end.

Daughter Ricki-the most talked-about child on TV

This past season of The Bachelorette threw a human-shaped spanner in the works. Competitor Emily, a former show winner whose relationship had ended, was now in the driving seat with her pick of suitors. Those in contention for the fantasy suite decided it was too tawdry, not least because Emily has a young daughter at home. Once Emily recognised compatibility and fatherly qualities in Jeff-albeit not before the final show-she ended the competition and sent other potential fiancé, Ari, home. So has the programme finally gained self-awareness about its detrimental effect on long-term relationships? Not exactly. The finale was roundly ridiculed-even by other network shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live!-for killing the tension of a closing rose ceremony and effectively ending a half-hour early. ABC’s salvage operation centred on promoting Bachelor Pad, a spin-off set seemingly entirely in the fantasy suite with partners for everyone! It’s the Bachelor/ette without piety.

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