‘Are You the One?,’ no, but it will do
MTV reality series offers an interesting twist on dating shows
January 28, 2014
So much of TV, both scripted and unscripted, is based on making us care about the outcome of something that is profoundly unimportant. Whether it’s a sitcom romance or a random college-basketball game or a talent-show elimination, once we start trying to figure out what might happen next, we’re hooked.
Although it’s even less consequential than most reality shows, MTV’s new dating show “Are You the One?” could get its hooks into viewers. Placing 20 attractive young people, each of whom has supposedly been paired secretly with a “perfect match,” in a house in Hawaii, it manages to pique our curiosity more than engage us emotionally, but that could be enough to keep us involved.
The show, airing on Tuesdays at 11 p.m., is more convoluted than the average dating show. In the premiere, which aired last week, the contestants were told by the host, Ryan Devlin, that they all had one thing in common: “You suck at relationships.”
But, he continued, “each one of you has been put through an extensive matchmaking process. Using psychologists, compatibility testing, professional matchmakers and your friends, families and exes, we’ve been able to find an ideal match for each of you.” That means, of course, that each of those ideal matches also sucks at relationships.
While living together, the 20 people have to figure out which of their housemates is their soul mate. If all of them pair up correctly by the end of the season, they’ll split $1 million.
The contestants are the usual overly expressive mix. Many confessed to being bad at commitment: One girl, Shanley, said she dated several members of the same frat at her college; Kayla admitted she’s never said “I love you” to a guy; Adam said he’s had 15 one-night stands.
John claimed that his last relationship was with “a coke-head stripper,” adding, “You’ve got to slay a couple of dragons before you get to the princess.”
In a scene reminiscent of “The Real World,” we saw the women reacting to the fact that they would all be sleeping in one big room. Shanley threw a fit when someone moved her stuff off the bed she’d picked.
Fortunately for her, Chris T. found Shanley’s behavior a turn-on. Previously, he and Shanley clicked when she realized he has a tattoo of David Bowie in “Labyrinth,” which happens to be her favorite movie.
But it was two other contestants, John and Simone, who broke in “pound town,” a room with only one bed and, evidently, a night-vision camera. The footage of them in the bed ended with him saying, “Why are you wearing clothes?”
The next day, the contestants competed in a quiz in which everyone took close-up selfies of various body parts; the opposite-sex contestants had to guess whose part was whose. The four winners got to pick someone to go on a group date on a boat.
During the ride, Adam told his chosen date, Jessica, that he can’t go out with a woman for longer than a week without sleeping with her. He wound up ditching Jessica and making out in the water with Brittany.
Meanwhile, the non-dating contestants got to vote on which of the dating couples had to go in the “truth booth,” where they would learn whether they are, in fact, made for each other. If they were a perfect match, they would sit out the rest of the season.
Everyone picked Shanley and Chris T., who entered the booth, were subjected to what looked like a 3D body scan and then told they weren’t meant for each other. They seemed genuinely disappointed, but since it was never clear why they liked each other in the first place, viewers probably shed few tears.’
The episode ended with the “match-up ceremony,” in which the men took turns picking their presumed mate. This ceremony had bells and whistles that were as silly as the truth-booth body scan: The couples had their palms scanned, and the number of correct matches was announced by electric beams.
In fact, only two guys guessed correctly, but neither they nor we know which two, so the entire ceremony seems pointless. The last guy picking, Dillan, said that the woman he wound up with, Coleysia, was at best his fourth choice. He was appropriately remorseful when she said that she had been picked last before in similar situations. At this rate, it seems unlikely that MTV will have to fork over the $1 million.
What’s more, even if we stipulate that the matchmaking process could find a perfect mate, what are the odds that that perfect mate would be among the pool of applicants to the show?
Still, once we’ve seen the contestants try and fail to find a love connection, it’s hard not to be at least a little curious about who their real connection is.
Viewers could be tempted to stick it out till the season finale. It could also be fun to watch he inevitable reunion special telling us who, if anyone, is still together a few months later.
The couples are attractive and mostly likable. With the exception of Shanley’s tantrum, the premiere hour passed painlessly.
“Are You the One?” isn’t the one, but what’s the harm in a few Tuesday-night hookups?
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