Show us the love! TV's fascination with dating shows is still growing
Here’s some shocking news for anyone who thinks the current spate of dating and relationship programs on commercial TV represents the nadir of modern civilisation. You ain't seen nothing yet.
Seven launches its latest foray into the crowded genre, Back With the Ex, this week – and it has plenty more where that came from.
First Dates Australia will return, and The Single Wives (formerly known as First Wives Club) – in which divorcees are coached as they look for a new partner – will make its debut.
Casting calls suggest there are also a bunch of other new formats in development: Escape For Love, Ultimate Love Match, Take Me Out and Love Rescue in Paradise. But it's entirely possible not all of these will come to fruition, and those that do may not look much like the show that was first envisioned.
Back With the Ex, for instance, began life as Forever Love, a show in which singles would be paired up and sent off to exotic destinations; think of it as a cross between MAFS and Getaway. But somewhere along the line it morphed into a different beast, a show dedicated to "helping singles reconnect with their true love". The offer of "exotic travel" remained, but now it was targeted at people "willing to reconnect … with a former love".
Surprisingly (or not), some people thought that was a dreadful idea. "I'd rather stab myself in the eye with a thousand tiny needles than be in the same room as an ex," wrote one commenter on Seven's casting page on Facebook.
"Take me to Venice, stick us in a gondola so I can drown him and make it look like an accident," wrote another.
"Getting back with an ex is like trying to shove a turd back where it came from," a third noted. "The one that got away did so for a reason. Flush the toilet and move on."
Sage advice, perhaps, but the networks won't be following it any time soon. Though they've been burnt by some relationship shows (The Last Resort, anyone? Kiss Bang Love?), they'll keep going back there in the hope of finding true ratings love.
When it works, it's spectacular. Nine has just enjoyed a blockbuster season of Married at First Sight and its after-show dissection Talking Married was a surprise smash too, the final episode drawing more than 300,000 viewers, the biggest audience ever for its digital channel Nine Life.
Date Night – basically Tinder for television (it even came with its own app) – wasn't anywhere near so successful, but Nine is hoping it's onto a winner with its local remake of the super-trashy UK series Love Island, with Sophie Monk hosting. In a bold move, it is putting the youth-skewing show on Go! rather than its main channel.
Over on Ten, where Monk's search for love (or new sponsorship deals) played out last year, the Bachelor franchise will have three outings – Bachelor in Paradise (now airing), The Bachelor, and Monk's alma mater The Bachelorette.
Also joining the line-up is the Julia Morris-hosted Blind Date, the local version of a UK format that first aired in the 1980s and was successfully revived last year.
(In a neat twist, Blind Date was based on Perfect Match, which first aired on Ten in 1984; Perfect Match was itself based on the American show The Dating Game, which first aired in 1965.)
In short, there will be so much looking for love and salvaging of relationships on our TV screens this year that singles bars and couples therapists might be in for a seriously tough time.
Love it or hate it, TV romance is set to blossom for a good while yet.
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