The sign dating game
The sign dating game
Programs like Blind Date prepared the audience for the coming wave of reality television at the turn of the millennium.
Although Temptation Island fizzled in the ratings, its format of season-long dating drama caught on with ABC’s The Bachelor, the show that would largely define its subgenre.
While audiences got a kick out of The Dating Game’s flirtations, the show never gave much attention to what happened after the cameras stopped rolling. The juicy part came when the couple returned to discuss the events of their date with host Chuck Woolery.
Instead of watching strangers attempt to woo one another, they were now airing their dirty laundry in front of a studio audience, and America ate it up.
While both The Dating Game and Singled Out plowed through the question-and-answer segments in order to produce two couples every half-hour, Baggage stuck to one matchmaking session.
The intent was to draw out as much interpersonal catcalling as possible—a well-documented strength of the program’s host, Jerry Springer.
The formula was straightforward: A photogenic bachelorette would sit on one side of the stage, asking icebreaker questions to three potential suitors behind a partition.
Unaware of their name, age, occupation, or income, the bachelorette was reduced to innuendo-laden setups for the suitors’ hopefully witty retorts.
The “real” was amplified and elevated to the realm of the sensational.
So audiences were ready for a whole new level of unscripted televised romance: the reality dating competition.
About halfway into each episode of Baggage, the two remaining suitors were asked why the contestant should go out with them and not their competitor.
Most guests were happy to talk about what a good and desirable person they are and leave it at that, but Springer frequently jumped in to reinforce the last part of the question: “Why not the other guy?
There have been countless dating shows over the past 50 years, but they largely subscribe to one of three formats: speedy matchmaking along the lines of The Dating Game, voyeuristic date commentary akin to Love Connection, and dramatized dating competitions like Who Wants To Marry A Multi-Millionaire? As is the case with most television, the primary goal is always to entertain the audience at home, but as time marched on, many of these shows traded sweetness for sarcasm and grabs at romance for grabs at fame.