The rise of tv dating shows

Emer Handly

Credit: Beat 102-103

Love is something we all want to find. It is also something we want to watch people find. We love a good love story. This, perhaps, is one of the fundamental reasons for the huge rise in tv dating shows in recent years.

Take Me Out, The Bachelor, Beauty and The Geek, Paradise Hotel, Dinner Date, Love Island and, of course, First Dates have become our guilty pleasures. Whether you like them or not, you cannot deny that these kinds of shows are extremely popular. But why?

The main reason is simple, it is entertainment. Dating shows are light-hearted, funny and easy to watch. The viewer enjoys watching two people meet for the first time and seeing if they click with each other or not. Their hearts melt when they see people getting along so naturally, and they cringe when the people people awkwardly sitting there clearly not connecting at all.

“Once upon a time, if you used a dating service, you were considered a bit of a loser. Now they’re mainstream and have lost that stigma,” Dr. Rebecca Huntley, social researcher told Marie Claire.

“As such, I think we’re interested in seeing what happens when two people are forced into intimacy really quickly,” she said.

Another reason is that it is a reflection of the modern era. The dating scene is no longer private. Technology has changed how we date. Apps like Tinder, Plenty of Fish and Bumble have made dating quick and easy, and (arguably) less genuine. Like tv dating shows, they are a portrayal of how times are changing.

“The thing that makes it good is its chance reflection of current romantic reality. Both audience and participants are aware of, if not directly engaged with, an emerged dating culture whose inhabitants careen from hope to disappointment, sometimes in a matter of minutes,” wrote journalist Helen Razer.

Producers like creating dating shows because they are cheap to make and still get large viewer ratings. However, dating shows need a couple of key ingredients to be successful. There has to be a degree of sincerity in at least some of the contestants. There also needs to be a reason for the audience to invest in the contestants. This often means telling the viewers about vulnerable parts of their history.

Humour is yet another reason people love dating shows. People love to see other people make fools out of themselves. Popular dating shows have the right balance of humour and sincerity.

“An important part of any dating show are the clowns – the sort of witless morons who you can’t believe are even allowed on TV, let alone allowed on TV to ask people to love them – but if they’re not balanced out with a dose of genuine feeling, the whole enterprise runs the risk of collapsing,” said Stuart Heritage in the Guardian.

Drama is also a vital aspect. These shows have more drama than Shakespeare – slightly unhinged, love-hungry women; slightly unhinged, love-hungry men; cocktail-fuelled feuds; raunchy moments; distraught break-ups. It’s the guilty pleasure viewers want without the drama being directly related to their own lives.

Social analyst David Chalke explained to the reasons people get so invested in these shows.

“Because you go to your Twitter feed and you join in. It’s just like watching you or your friends date, break up, romance and all the rest of it. It’s getting closer to virtual reality”

“You could say as a society possibly we’re going back to old fashioned values because of terrorism and all of that kind of stuff. We want heartfelt, we want light, we just want to be entertained. We want to look at other people and liken — or not liken — them to us.”

In all honesty, once the cameras are switched off the success of tv show relationships is very low, with the rare exception or two. Viewers know this, but it makes little difference.

From the comfort of our own couches viewers get to relate to the men and women who put themselves out there in an attempt to find love, all the while being entertained. They don’t dabble in serious issues and provide a Friday night escape from more heavy matters. That’s exactly what people want; entertaining, relatable, heartfelt, sometimes awkward experiences. And that’s exactly what tv dating shows are.

Viewers can’t seem to get enough of dating shows at the moment. By assembling a group of characters who you either root for or against, in a situation viewers can relate to, dating shows are a shoe-in for being popular. Whether done well – or even occasionally done badly – dating shows are irresistible for people in this day and age. Dating well and truly has become a spectator sport.