The father of reality dating has never actually been on a date. Bachelor mastermind Mike Fleiss — who met his wife of 23 years in high school — conceived the show that started it all based on ”how it looked best for TV.” Which means that finding a perfect match came second. Perhaps that explains why the romantic track record of TV dating shows remains so dreadful. With ABC’s Bachelorette wrapping up another confounding season, Fox’s More to Love kicking off the plus-size-dating genre, and VH1’s …of Love franchise churning out endless sleazy hookups, we investigated on behalf of bachelors and bachelorettes everywhere: Why is reality love even harder than real love? Let us count the ways.
SCREEN-SAVVY PRODUCERS ARE PLAYING CUPID
This could be a good thing, having your own private selection committee: ”I’m single, and if you would give me 30 guys who have all passed background, medical, and psych [checks], I’d be on cloud nine,” says SallyAnn Salsano, exec producer of More to Love. Adds Léni Mex, a contestant on ABC’s Dating in the Dark, ”The way they framed it to me was that they were going to try to find me my perfect partner.” Then again, producers want drama first — with a side of possible everlasting love: ”They picked these guys based on what I like…and what I dislike,” says Bachelorette No. 2, Meredith Phillips (who eventually split with her choice, Ian).
TV SCHEDULES TICK FASTER THAN A BIOLOGICAL CLOCK
A superlong shoot is 48 days (The Bachelorette); VH1 shows log a mere 21. ”It warp-speeds the dating process,” says VH1 exec VP of original programming Jeff Olde. ”Things that would normally take a long time, you focus in on. It becomes very emotional very quickly for the people involved.”
THE DATES ARE OVER-THE-TOP
Reality dating can be like ticking off a bucket list: Hot-air balloon rides! Salsa lessons! Exotic trips! ”It’s so much bigger than life,” says Jennifer Braff, runner-up on NBC’s 2007 ”kittens versus cougars” face-off, Age of Love. ”It feels a lot more romantic than it really is.”
THE ODDS ARE AGAINST YOU
”Is this a place where people could find true love? Maybe, if they’re there for the right reasons,” says Patti Stanger of Bravo’s The Millionaire Matchmaker. ”But if you’re doing Rock of Love, hell no.” Even the gold standard, the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise, has a dismal success rate: Only 5 of the 19 couples are still together. But Braff says it worked just fine for her — off screen: ”After the show,” she says, ”I had a lot of marriage and date proposals from guys who saw me on television.” Just goes to show: There are always plenty more reality TV junkies in the sea.