The Golden Age of Trashy TV Dating
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because it’s the age of pixelated relationships, y’all, and these are the shows that precipitated it all.
By Sanjena Sathian
It’s a Monday, which means if you are like me and almost 7 million other Americans, tonight you’re tuning in to watch Andi Dorfman — aka The Bachelorette, a 27-year-old Atlanta assistant district attorney — publicly date 25 (well, by now she’s down to 5) super hunky eligible men. She will do so in glorious pageant style: wearing studded cocktail gowns and giving Barbie-hands-esque waves to the men and the cameras, all while discussing her need for a gentleman who will treat her right, someone like Rhett Butler (before he slaps Scarlett). And I will sigh when I watch — not in sadness at our strange reality-TV world, no, but because I can’t figure out when reality TV decided to get so damn classy.
I miss dating shows that called it like it was. Because if The Bachelorette is the e-Harmony of TV dating — the awkwardness all dressed up in a marriage-friendly tuxedo — well, it just makes me hanker for the Tinder of entertainment dating: something openly superficial. Think about it: Who has better tales at Sunday brunch? Your eHarmony-clambering friends or your Tinder-surfer buddies?
We might as well return to dating shows that actually mimicked teen and 20-something life.
If we’re choosing among what we know are sculpted versions of reality, then we might as well return to the kinds of dating shows that actually mimicked teen and 20-something life. Today they’re in short supply. Recall MTV’s glory days? We had Date My Mom, Room Raiders, Singled Out and Parental Control. And don’t forget Fox’s Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? or the CW’s Beauty and the Geek. That was living.
Or the greatest of all: Next, which should probably sue Tinder for stealing its swipe-right-or-left logic. On Next, five potential dates got off a bus in sequence, while the dater calling the shots yelled “NEXT,” if s/he was unhappy with their appearance. The contestants won as much $$ as the dates lasted in minutes. But if the contestant didn’t get NEXT’ed, they had a choice: pick between the money — usually between $30 and $60 — and a second date. Oh, the camp. The sly show-makers lampooned the genre even as they built it: turning the confessional camera into an absurd confessional bus, turning the emotional montage into a hilarious and awkward collage sequence and, most of all, squeezing five dates into a fifteen-minute circus on your afternoon cable channel.
Call the whole show a lesson for America’s youth: learn to say what you want, loudly and proudly. So gorge yourself on one of the best episodes of Next that the Internet has seen fit to preserve, and praise the lawd for the 2000s hairstyles and pickup lines.