May 21st, 2002


What Did Happen to Chuck Woolery?

I’m gonna come out with a dirty little secret. I love all those TV dating shows. I would totally get cable if there were a dating show network.

I think it all started one summer when I had a morning job and an afternoon job. In between I’d come home, eat lunch and watch White Shadow* reruns, then new episodes of The New Newlywed Game and Love Connection before I went to my second job. Dating shows have changed a lot since then.

It’s so lucky to be alive in the ‘00s, as there is an explosion of the genre. Elimidate, Rendez View, Change of Heart, Cheaters, Blind Date etc., I love them all. No longer are they always racially segregated. No longer can homosexuality be ignored completely. I’m not arguing that these shows are a vehicle for liberation by any means, in fact the reinforce lots of horrible stereotypes and self-destructive actions, but I love that people’s shit is just being laid out for everyone to see and cringe at. And yes, they are filled with sexist assumptions, a weird mix of prudery and titillation, homophobia among the straight couples, and mindless capitalist platitudes** (Though I don’t understand how anyone can look at most of these idiot guys, and their weird idea of proper roles for "ladies" in society, for instance, and not see the way in which patriarchy informs our lives in very personal ways. But then, that incomprehension isn’t exactly a new feeling.) But I just can’t turn away.

Cheaters makes me feel really dirty. It’s a combination of Cops and the nastiness we all want to see on any dating show. Basically, if you think your partner is cheating on you, you call the show and "licensed Cheaters investigators" follow them around and take videotapes of their movements. The show rides on the "confrontation" aspect when the cheater (hopefully with his/her new lover) is surprised by the cheatee, the host, the camera crew, and a team of hired goons who are always a step too slow to prevent the first slap or tackle.

I heard the best dialogue ever last week when a woman confronted her girlfriend and the cheater tried to talk her way out of it. New lover yelled to cheater in a lovely, slow, southern/Midwest accent. "Will you pleeeeease stop telling that bitch you luuuuve her and get in the fuuuuuckin’ car."

It does need a new host and a little editing though. The host appears to be on Valium and has a harder time finishing a sentence than George Bush Sr. He tries to act all cop-ish and tough (yelling into his walkie-talkie "Talk to me" every few minutes.) but it’s really just sad. And we really don’t need to see the bad grainy videotape over and over. Two cheaters per half-hour instead of one would improve the show immensely.

Elimidate is even better, starting out with four men and one woman (or vice versa) they get insanely drunk and go from venue to venue, eliminating ("elimidating") potential partners one at a time. What I love the best is that often the elimidated people are relieved or happy. One contestant, when asked who she thought would be sent away next, said, "God, I hope it’s me. I’m sooooo bored." On another show, two women were obviously more interested in each other than the guy and when he went with the Conservative Christian, they went off to a bar, hanging all over each other.

There’s no major point or conclusion to this really. I just felt that to keep our relationship honest, I had to tell you. I hope you understand.

*Still the only major network TV show that ever took inner-city teenagers seriously.

**Sample dialogue:
"I’m working on getting my real estate license."
"Wow, that’s cool. It’s great to help people and home ownership is so important. I want to get into marketing myself."
"Oh, that’s so interesting and exciting."
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