The Reality of Television: Part 2, Love that Lasts a Season

By Janean Akilah

Match-making and love on reality television is a constant fixture in programming. Since its inception, relationship issues have been a multi-million dollar business. Soap Operas in the 1930’s were developed to fill radio time and crafted to garner advertising dollars. Their target audience was women and their storylines delved into the audience’s deepest fears of finding the right one.  The legendary Dating Game was a long-standing and top-rated vehicle for cosmetics companies. One contestant asked questions of possible suitors, in hopes of finding someone decent to date. On-screen match-making escalated with The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and Joe Millionaire and made celebrities out of the hosts (deemed the perfect catch).

Who needs models when you can put the latest contestant on the cover of a magazine or book them on a talk show? Celebrities got in on the love starved hunt to reclaim the spotlight with shows such as Flavor of Love, For the Love of Ray J  and What Chilli Wants.

The list is endless.

Regardless that we know the ‘winners’ never really win anyone’s heart, we still tune in.  At first, we might have believed that the winning contestant was really going to ride off into the sunset with the prized hunk or love-starved independent woman. But as the matchups fell apart before the reunion shows, it became evident that our naiveté was everything but. We know it’s not real, but we love it. Watching folks live in the host’s mansion, or shall we say the ‘set’.  They go on dates with the same person, competing like there’s an indefinite student loan deferment at stake.

Meanwhile the host pretends to be torn between the plethora of options, looking for a soul mate.  If the host is lucky, then the soul mate they picked doesn’t work out and the show will be renewed for another season.

It was reported that Flavor of Love was one of the highest rated shows in VHI’s history. Why did we watch?  Flavor Flav has never been on the most eligible bachelor list…anywhere.  The women were not to be considered top notch, but we watched. Is it because we couldn’t believe that the women could act so well? They fought over Flav tooth, nail and weave.  They tongued him down, to our disgust, every chance they could get and we watched.

These shows made celebrities out of some smart contestants. Nikki Hoops Alexander was a winner on the first season of Flavor of Love and is now linked to Shaquille O’Neal. They’re shaq-ing up (couldn’t resist) and she has a new show in the works. Flavor Flav’s runner up, Tiffany New York  Pollard, was granted a spin-off and her runner up, Punk  (David Otunga) is now linked to Jennifer Hudson. So there is life after degrading reality television, but the odds of success are no greater than your son entering the NBA.
With Basketball (non) Wives, Baseball (crazy) Wives, Real (divorced) Housewives and (looking for) Love and Hip Hop garnering unprecedented success, these shows aren’t going anywhere.

What do we learn from them?

Well, we’ve learned that if you date a professional athlete or musician, you better get married while you can. Many of the women are introduced as the ‘Ex-Fiancee’ of __________. Feel free to input any random person in the blank.  We have also learned that infidelity comes with the luxury of dating a millionaire and Louboutins and rent money are a trade off for monogamy.  Louboutins, a high end shoe company, have been around for a little over 21 years.  Why in the midst of an economic recession, can we see the famed ‘red bottoms’ on line at any night club? While ladies scramble to get in under ‘free before 11’ promotions, they sport shoes worth upwards of $600-1300.

The irony is in the details.

There are a few relationship-based reality shows that seem to err on the side of normalcy, but the tradition of these shows is that the couples wind up divorcing. Let’s hope TI & Tiny are able to keep it together better than Nick and Jessica did. Fingers crossed that the many Braxton sisters might mend their failed relationships or finally find true love (kudos to Tamar and Vince for holding it together.com).

In the world of reality television and love, there is only one thing that is certain—we’re watching until the weaves fall off.