Someday — maybe after Amnesty International gets involved, or Bono organizes a relief concert, or Elton John writes a song — we’ll feel terrible about what happened to all of TV’s sexy singles in the late ’90s and early ’00s: how they were rounded up, piled into limos, and whisked off into televised captivity while we stood back and watched. Fox’s Paradise Hotel, the show where guests must pair off to survive (failing, like caged pandas, to breed), might have been a turning point, awareness-wise. Too bad nobody is watching.
Built on the twin reality bedrocks of mate swapping and viewer participation, Paradise Hotel features 11 singles thrown together in a remote luxury resort. Upon their arrival, host Amanda Byram (whose enthusiastic gesticulations bring to mind an air-traffic controller in heavy fog) took them through the rules of the game, which basically boil down to putting out or getting out. At the end of each week, the person who ends up alone is sent home, and a member of the studio audience takes his or her place. Other than to remain in Paradise, there is no goal, no game, and no apparent prize at the end.
Our reward, presumably, is that we get to watch said sexy singles frolic and gambol and sun themselves on the rocks. It’s not an exaggeration to say the experience is somewhere on par with staring at a slab of driftwood for an hour. Despite its self-described groundbreaking audience-involvement innovations, Paradise Hotel offers little we haven’t seen many times before — including a hypertrophied blonde by the name of Toni who sailed on Fox’s Love Cruise back in 2001. (In those days, she was known as ”Bug-Eyed” Toni for the way she resembled a thyroidal Chihuahua when she got angry. She’s since mellowed a bit.)
So far, Paradise Hotel’s only contribution to the genre — as well as the show’s single bright spot — has been the introduction of a nonsexy individual into the fragile, all-sexy ecosystem. Within hours of entering Paradise from the viewing audience, Dave (who, aside from being quite homely, also appears to be obsessive, aggressive, and insecure — or cunningly manipulative, I can’t decide) managed to alienate every single one of the guests and repel the girl of his choice. He may be onto something: With the subject of attraction now so thoroughly mined on television, repulsion might just be the next big thing. Fox, if you’re listening, how does this grab you: Get Away From Me Resort. I think it’s an idea whose time has come.