My latest obsession? MTV’s Are You the One?, a Real World-style dating show that drops 10 guys and 10 girls in Hawaii and asks them to work together to find the perfect matches among them. If they can successfully pair up with their predetermined soul mates, they’ll all split a million bucks.
After just two episodes, I’ve gotten deeply invested in the show, and I can’t quite explain why. If a team of matchmakers told you that only one Bachelor contestant was scientifically compatible with Juan Pablo, wouldn’t that completely change the way you watched? That’s how it feels with Are You the One?, which plays up our voyeuristic love of TV dating by promising you that, yes, 10 of these couples actually do belong together.
Or do they? The first two episodes have proven that mutual attraction (they’re all beautiful, FYI) and surface connection (“You like the movie Labyrinth? Wait, I like Labyrinth!”) don’t a perfect match make, and therein is the guilty fun of the show. It’s as if The Challenge and The Bachelor had a weird but gorgeous, chiseled baby who only cries on Tuesday nights at 11 p.m.
In my conversations with a few dear friends who have also fallen victim to the show’s puerile charms, we realized there were quite a few questions that we needed answering, so I took them straight to the producers. Read on — or, if burning questions aren’t your thing, scroll all the way down for an exclusive clip from Tuesday night’s episode.
1. What’s the science behind these “perfect matches”? What methods were used?
“The methods came from a combo of scientifically proven compatibility testing, as well as straight matchmaking,” says EP Tiffany Williams. “The matchmakers got pretty deep into all of the contestants’ past relationship history, so they would do these interviews with the contestants and their family, friends, and exes. All that information was combined and analyzed.”
2. So is this equitable to online dating where there’s a percentage of compatibility, à la OKCupid?
Williams says it’s more than just the physical chemistry test that mattered in casting. A team of veteran matchmakers added to the numeric data and supplemented their own opinions based on interviews with the contestants. “It’s not just, ‘Oh, this person is 80 percent your match,’” says Williams. “It’s all a stew.”
3. Who are the matchmakers?
The seasoned Yentas at play included a licensed marriage/family therapist and a psychologist who has used a holistic therapy approach to successfully matching hundreds of couples.
4. How much time do the contestants get with each other between match-up ceremonies?
There are 10 match-up ceremonies over the course of six weeks of physical shooting — although the production schedule doesn’t necessarily equate to a match-up ceremony every four days. But really, that means the contestants have just a few days between ceremonies to make their guesses.
5. Why is there only one bed?
“There’s no better way to get to know somebody,” laughs Williams. “It’s the ultimate slumber party.”
6. Are there any rules set on the contestants or any gameplay that is off-limits?
7. Will there be any other clues besides the Truth Booth to help the contestants figure out the matches, like Survivor dropping a clue about the location of an immunity idol?
Negative. Unlike Survivor, there are no hints or bonuses that will be thrown the contestants’ way to help them get their bearings. “The Truth Booth is the confirmation, and the getaway dates are valuable because they get to spend the one-on-one time,” says Williams. “But that’s the only other way [they can find out].” Viewers at home can get clues online — and in fact, one perfect match will be revealed after Tuesday night’s episode.
8. Were the 20 contestants picked and then paired up, or were the 10 best matches picked from the hundreds of applicants?
Casting narrowed down the contestant applications significantly, and then looked to see which ones were perfect matches. The final pool included groups from across a spectrum of relationship experiences and backgrounds.
9. Say a couple finds matches successfully in the Truth Booth and they’re sent off to live in peace. What happens if a contestant doesn’t actually want to be with their perfect match?
Too damn bad. Once they’ve successfully been matched in the Truth Booth, the contestants must go to the honeymoon suite, regardless of their feelings toward one another. “You’ll see in the course of the season, that opens up lots of drama,” says Williams. So, if you’re keeping score, shout hooray that at least one couple matches this season.
10. Chris T. and Shanley. What’s the deal?
“If one of them finds their match and they have to go away, I’m sure they would not be happy about it,” teases Williams.
Are You the One? airs Tuesdays at 11 p.m. ET on MTV.