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Seeking Looks-and Laughs 

by Kathy M. Newman


I met the man I live with on a blind date. I picked him because of his personal ad: "Fierce, bright, witty, savage, poor white trash, seeks the same for global destruction, bank robbery and coffee." Our first date was in a bar. He was wearing yellow-tinted glasses, and he was British. He said, "I'm not sure if these glasses are Austin Powers or simply "ostentatious." And I was hooked.


I should warn you, however, that blind dates are usually emotional ordeals -- spiked with vulnerability, guile and alcohol. The most important lesson I learned from more than two years of "playing the personals" is this: Everyone is lonely.


In our culture, we are generally ashamed of being lonely -- except for when we watch TV. Which might explain the ever-growing popularity of Blind Date, which is filmed in Los Angeles, but is available in Spokane on KSKN-22.


Blind Date is mean. A man and a woman who are "matched" at the Blind Date Web site (www.blinddate.excite.com) go out on a date. The beginning of the date is always the most awkward -- and only appears more so when the show's producers add their comic graphics. It's kind of like a dating version of VH-1's Pop-Up Video. This week, for example, an animated hand counted how many times a man said "Gotcha" during the beginning of his date (seven times).


Pre-dinner activities have included milking cows, dipping chocolates and trying on fetish gear. After a good laugh, the couple drives to a cozy restaurant and begins to drink furiously. Blind Date continues its running animated commentary throughout the show. My favorite is "Therapist Joe," who says things like "Get a Clue!"


The date often migrates to a bar, in which furious drinking is continued, and can even end with a dip in a hot tub. Clean-cut host Roger Lodge -- after the commercial message -- tells the viewers how each contestant reacted to the evening, and plays a short clip of the post-date wrap-up interview.


During every show, Lodge invites viewers to post their own ads on the Blind Date Web site, promising to match viewers with their ideal type. But ideal types do not always make for good television. Last week, for example, Blind Date matched an ambitious Latina with an unemployed tattooed homeboy whose greatest ambition, he explained, was to get a "grip of money." On another episode, Blind Date matched a sadistic "hottie" who hated non-aggressive men with a computer geek who sucked at pool, kept telling her she was beautiful and kept saying "Gotcha" (see above).


Blind Date is addictive -- in part because of the mocking running commentary provided by the show's producers. People in L.A. may be better looking than the rest of us, but they sure are stupid. On the other hand, is Blind Date anything more than a guilty pleasure? Kathryn Brown, a psychotherapist in California, argues that shows like Blind Date perform a "healing" function for the culture. The people willing to go on these shows," she explains, "represent something in the collective."


And what is the "something in the collective" that these contestants represent? In looking at the ad placed on the Blind Date Web site, I was surprised to find that most men say the most important quality in a woman is her intelligence, and most women say they want a man with a "good sense of humor." The next most important category for both sexes is full employment. What does dating mean in a post-mutual-dependence world? What does marriage mean now that there are so few economic reasons for romance?


One clue might lie, subliminally, in the logo for the show. The word "Blind" is in one circle, and the word "Date" is in another circle, and the two circles overlap, ever-so-slightly, in the middle. What does it look like? The Mastercard/Visa symbol. In the post I Love Lucy nation, everyone wants someone with a college education and a steady job. Everyone wants to date that strong, dependable breadwinner from the 1950s (as long as he/she can snowboard, too). We are all looking for our own Mastercard/Visa merger.


Someone I dated in college used to say that relationships happen when "two people of roughly the same socioeconomic background are physically attracted to each other and decide to form a partnership." It's not a romantic view, but who can afford romance? When what we really want is a good blind date: full of passionate kisses, global destruction, bank robbery and coffee.


Blind Date airs weeknights at 11:30 pm


and again at 12:30 am on KSKN-22.

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