By Alynda Wheat
March 16, 2009 at 12:00 PM EDT

Here’s where Tough Love (which premiered Sunday on VH1) went wrong: the house. If the point is to help women conquer their individual problems finding love, then treat them as individuals. By herding them into the standard reality show trope — a tacky McMansion designed to be a catfight cage — Tough Love says it’s clearly more interested in drama than in progress.

Not exactly what you’d expect from Drew Barrymore, is it? The He’s Just Not That Into You star is an executive producer of the series in which matchmaker Steven Ward delivers hard truths to eight women, ostensibly to help them find love. Much like the best-selling book on which Barrymore’s movie is based, Steve’s advice is just the re-warmed common sense your grandmother tried to teach you. Unfortunately, nobody listens to Granny anymore — at least not these ladies. Jacklyn advertises that she wants to be married by 25. Taylor needs a storage unit to hold all her insecurities. And Abiola — oh, this is rich — is a journalist who offers relationship advice. If they can learn a few things from Ward, great.

The problem is the whole break-’em-down-to-build-’em-up approach. Telling a woman she should button up her blouse so that men take her more seriously is a frank kindness. Having her strut out of a house, parade before a panel of three strange guys whose job is apparently to ogle, then forcing her to overhear their painful snap judgments is cruel and unnecessary. There’s just a better way to deliver that kind of information.

And again, there’s that house. Inevitably (and judging by previews), there will be fights, which will make the women look childish, erratic, and emotionally unstable. How that helps them find happy, stable relationships I just don’t know. That, unfortunately, is why I dinged Drew B. in the first place. She clearly seems interested in helping women boost their self-confidence, and we could all use an honest voice to tell us how. It would just be nice if Tough Love didn’t look and feel quite so much like Rock of Love.