The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Dating shows are a weird concept — and their premises are only getting weirder

From 14-day engagements to southern harems, what is reality dating and why are we so obsessed with watching relationships on screen?
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Reality television is a genre almost as old as the medium of television itself. Debuting in 1948 on ABC, “Candid Camera,” a show of practical jokes, was the first reality television show to be aired in the US. From comedy shows like this grew the horror of modern-day reality dating shows.

The earliest reality dating show, “The Dating Game,” aired from 1965 to 1999. Each episode displayed a man or a woman with potential matches hidden behind a wall. To get to know the potential match, contestants must ask them questions to narrow down who they want to end up with at the end of the episode.

In terms of concept, modern-day reality dating shows haven’t changed much; “The Dating Game” is actually quite similar to Netflix’s “Love is Blind,” a show in which contestants are locked in separate rooms and get to know each other by talking through the walls. 

However, it is just the base concepts that are similar. Modern-day reality dating shows have more impressive production, and plot writing, but their insane premises aren’t very ethical.

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The first season of “Love is Blind” aired on Netflix in 2020, in which participants aren’t allowed to see their partner of choice until after they agree to marry them. This process only takes place over 14 days. After the proposal, participant couples go on vacations to simulate living together for about two months until the wedding.

There have been three more seasons of “Love is Blind” since the debut of the first season. Most couples either call off the wedding during the show or divorce shortly after filming. In interviews, past participants said that there was mental gymnastics and constant pressure from producers to get married. 

Almost every reality dating show pushes copious amounts of alcohol on participants to loosen their inhibitions. Most shows use opaque glasses for the alcohol to make editing look more seamless. Most conversations viewers see aren’t true to how they happened. 

The first four episodes of the fifth season of “Too Hot To Handle,” a Netflix show, aired July 14. This show lies to participants that they are on a different dating show until they meet the host, an all-seeing robot that takes money away from the pooled cash prize if the participants perform any sexual action on themselves or each other– from kissing to penetration, the robot sees it all through security footage.

What’s weird is how angry and upset participants get when they learn they can’t have sex for a while. Sex is seemingly everything to the participants and it feels gross to watch. It feels even grosser to watch the night-time security footage of participants performing sexual actions. 

On the opposite side of the spectrum is “Farmer Wants a Wife,” a FOX show which aired in March of this year. This show takes four farmers and gives each of them a harem of ten women to live with on their personal farms. Through “The Bachelor” style dates, the farmers eliminate the girls one by one. 

Nobody kisses until episode three, and every interaction beyond that is equally as awkward.

But the most insane premise to date is “Deep Fake Love,” a Spanish-made Netflix show that takes five committed couples and splits them into separate homes with singles willing to participate in adultery. 

There is a cash prize obtained when one partner is able to enter a screening room and endure watching footage of their partner cheating on them with the singles. Then, the partner must decide if it’s actual footage or deepfakes

The entire premise encourages cheating, and of course, they cheat. It’s a tough watch, but enjoyable if you like very messy relationship drama and people making fools out of themselves for money. 

Dating shows are weird. They’ve always been weird. Asking non-performers to perform in front of a camera offers insane moments of drama that are unlike all other “reality” shows.

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About the Contributor
Zhenya Loughney
Zhenya Loughney, Arts Reporter
Zhenya is a fourth year theatre design and journalism double major at UI. They are passionate about artistry and creativity. They are from Lebanon, KY.