A wacky new reality show brings bondage to prime time

By Dan Snierson
Updated March 29, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
Chains of Love: Jaimie Trueblood

We don’t mean to yank your chain — nor do we wish to sound off the cuff — but you might want to brace yourself: UPN has a lock on what could be the most bizarre and captivating reality series in TV history.

Don’t take our word for it. All you have to do is peruse these photos to see that the relationship show genre will never be the same after ”Chains of Love” debuts on April 17. Adapted from a goofy Dutch series, ”Chains” takes the prisoner of love concept quite literally: In each episode, a lovelorn contestant, known as the Picker, relocates to a Palos Verdes, Calif., house where he or she is attached to four potential mates by 6 feet of chain. Over a four day and night period (edited to fit the one hour format), the gang takes on everyday activities (grocery shopping! ice skating! sleeping!) while linked together, and chainees are systematically released until one remains. (David Garfinkle, one of the show’s executive producers, won’t reveal in advance how showers and potty breaks are handled.)

Adding to the chaos, the Picker is given $10,000, portions of which can be allotted to spurned suitors; then, if the Picker and the final contestant make a love connection, they split the kitty. (Or you can just forget all these rules, point at the screen, and say, ”Look, there are weird people in chains on my TV!”)

While ”Chains”’ conceit — a mix of ”Temptation Island,” ”The Dating Game,” and ”Oz” — lends itself to ridicule, producers insist that it won’t be played just for cheap laughs. ”We weren’t sure what to expect,” says Garfinkle, who also produces the syndicated series ”Blind Date.” ”But it’s become more like a soap opera with the competition. It’s like ‘Melrose Place.”’

Adds UPN president – CEO Dean Valentine: ”They’re the chains of love, not the chains of S&M. The chains are metaphors for the bonds of human affection…. People are going to be surprised by how revealing it is.”

God knows the contestants were. ”I can’t even begin to tell you how intense those chains are,” testifies 24 year old Picker Jennifer Mosley. ”When you do the arithmetic, you think, Okay, a date is usually three to four hours — if you take all the hours we spend together being connected, I mean, that’s months of knowing somebody.” Which leaves plenty of time for fabulously uncomfortable chain reactions. ”There definitely was a competitive nature among the girls,” shares another Picker, 30 year old Andy Dylan. ”There was a moment where this girl kissed me and we had this romantic eye to eye lock, and all of a sudden YANK! YANK!, the chain was yanking, like, ‘Hey! Don’t forget about me over here.”’ Oh yes, America — it really has come to this.