When I moved last August, it was to an old house on the South Hill where I get terrible TV reception. I thought about getting cable but decided against it when I remembered just how much time I can waste watching TV. For the most part, my guilty pleasures weren't that guilty -- I tended to go in for stuff like The West Wing, the Discovery Channel, and Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends. But every now and then I'd go through a phase -- almost always during the winter -- where only the most mindless entertainment would do. And this, my friends, is where Blind Date comes in.
I realize most people prefer the strenuous physical activity, sketchy food sources and tanned, bikini-clad bodies of reality shows like Survivor. It could be that I never got into Survivor or any of its many imitators simply because I know that my intrinsic wimpiness, lack of manual dexterity and fondness for physical comfort would get me voted off the island in no time flat. But dating shows like Blind Date (along with The Bachelor and Joe Millionaire) satisfy my need to be a voyeur. Besides, it has a certain familiarity. Unlike hammering a crab shell open with a coconut, or making my own shelter wearing nothing more than a bikini top and a sarong, dating is something I've actually done and am likely to do again.
Hosted by the quietly sarcastic and completely asexual Roger Lodge, Blind Date is half an hour of dating humiliation as experienced by two couples. While the theory behind Blind Date is that maybe TV is a better matchmaker than one's friends and family, it's obvious that the show's producers are secretly pairing people off more for a mismatch -- which is no fun for the people involved but enormously entertaining to watch. And unlike most blind dates I've been on, time on Blind Date the show moves pretty quickly. Within 15 minutes, the couple meets, goes on some kind of embarrassing-but-icebreaking activity, has dinner, walks around in the moonlight and more often than not ends up drunkenly dry-humping on a dance floor or murmuring inanities in a hot tub.
As in real dating, dinner is often the moment of truth as to whether there will be any further hooking up. Some of my favorite Blind Date moments have included the one where a guy criticizes his date's lack of opinions by telling her she should get an "edumacation," and the one where a boor confesses that he shouldn't be drinking on his bipolar medication, becomes increasingly piggish and causes his date to simply walk out.
But no episode has since topped the one I've come to call "the bunny episode." A sweetly nerdy guy gets so nervous he keeps talking about his pet rabbit, culminating in the horrifically hilarious Freudian slip: "It's really incredible to feel your love inside a bunny." His date is alarmed, he doesn't even realize it, and continues to talk about the rabbit all night, further escalating her discomfort. As many mistakes as I've made in dating, I've never done anything quite this embarrassing, which is why I secretly love Blind Date. It's like dating under a microscope -- everything is much bigger, more exaggerated and more visible than in real life. And while it's mindlessly amusing to watch attractive but ultimately shallow people fumble and collide like paramecia in a pond water sample, it's a nice reminder that even regular dating -- with its unknown variables, primary hypotheses and potential chemistry -- is something of a science experiment.
Publication date: 02/20/03