I turned on FOX television network’s reality TV show Take Me Out one Thursday night after seeing Ingrid Michaelson tweet about it. Having only caught the last half hour (which, factoring in commercial breaks, means I saw maybe about fifteen minutes), I was in that weird, bad-reality-TV mood and threw the remote to the other side of the couch. I proceeded to watch The Choice.
Hosted by Cat Deeley, the English girl with the nice legs who’s also hosted Dancing with the Stars, this episode starred Pauly D from The Jersey Shore, recording artist Romeo, Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom, and actor Jason Cook. The four celebrities sat in chairs facing the audience and away from the stage—if you’ve ever watched The Voice, it’s the same idea (and not coincidentally, because apparently The Choice is a parody of NBC’s more viable show). The concept of the dating show is essentially to give “regular” people the chance to have a dream date with a celebrity, based off of their personality and not their looks.
This latter aim is an ironic one because the show very obviously fails to achieve its don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover facade. First off, the pre-show contestant selection process seems to weed out anything-but-decent looking people, all who have clearly put a lot of effort into their appearances. Secondly, during the show, the “blind” celebrities are allowed, very early on, to see the contestants, and can easily choose according to their physical preferences.
Like any date, The Choice starts off with introductions: all the chairs are turned and a contestant’s name is announced. A large recorded silhouette of her body is displayed (I mean large, like the-wizard’s-face-in-the-Wizard-of-Oz large) while she attempts to show off how much she can shake her hips or grind or flip the hem of her dress. Then the walls of Oz part and she walks out as if auditioning for Toddlers and Tiaras, striking a pose at the end of her catwalk like a supermodel in training. The crowd cheers and often influences the choice of the celebs before anyone hears her speak. When she does open her mouth, she usually shouts as if she wasn’t already hooked up to a microphone. She describes herself in an over-rehearsed speech in terms of her personality and oftentimes also her looks, which is yet another step that makes the dates not-so-blind. Clichés, pick-up lines, and the corniest things you’ve ever heard fly across the stage in attempts to tickle the ears and other body parts of the lucky four celebrities.
Depending on who is in the chairs, there is a varied amount of room for sleaziness—while Pauly loved the girl who just got a stripper pole in her bedroom to exercise, Jeremy Bloom was all about the girl who liked to hang out with her grandma. The celebrity cast seemed to have been carefully chosen to present such a variety, which was a good thing because it left a chance for the small percentage of contestants who didn’t give hints about their love for giving oral sex.
The “blind” portion of the dating show can, from here forward, completely be tossed out the window, since the girls who least appeal to the celebrities physically can simply be eliminated within the next two rounds. Such is the case more often than not, and understandably so.
If more than one celebrity turns their chair for a contestant, then the decision-making power changes hands. It is then the celebrities’ turn to woo, which they are no rookies at, given their just-below-A-list statuses. While Pauly D described himself as “fun, ambitious, and trustworthy,” Romeo attempted to work his magic by remarking that looking at his contestant was “Better than looking at a Picasso.” The ladies were wooed in both cases, though the second girl probably shouldn’t have bought it because the most famous Picassos look like this.
The first round takes up the first half hour of the show, so after a hefty commercial break, round two commences. Once each celebrity has assembled a steamy team of three, the celebrities take turns asking their dates questions for fifteen seconds at a time—which is, obviously, the perfect amount of time to get an accurate impression of someone. Life or death questions like “Would you rather eat a bag of jalapeños or drink a beer that someone just dropped a cigarette into?” and stress-inducing demands like “Tell me a joke” put the girls on the spot as they stutter over their words. When they find a second of silence, the girls spit questions back at the celebrities which are often answered by another question. This is by far the most chaotic round and it doesn’t seem to achieve much except reveal a contestant’s choice of filler words.
When each girl has been asked two questions, the celebrities then eliminate one girl from their team of three. The last fifteen minutes (with, of course, another five-minute commercial break in the middle) revolve around the third and final round in which Cat Deeley reads a question to the contestants individually. After both girls have answered the question, the celebrity goes up on stage and chooses between the two, carrying her back to his chair on his arm so that he can whisk her off on a celebrity dream date.
This round proved to be very funny in the episode that I watched. When Cat asked Jason’s team, “What would you prescribe Jason if he came to you with a broken heart?,” the darker skinned girl replied “Coffee for your cream” (which doesn’t really make sense, unless cream has healing properties that I don’t know about). Ironically, when the second girl came out from backstage, her answer was “a lot of chocolate.” The crowd laughed and the poor girl was so confused that she almost stopped her answer there.
Jason, of course, couldn’t not pick the first girl after the chocolate comments, and so the commercial break that preceded his big decision was the least anticipation-filled commercial break ever. Completely unsurprising also was Pauly D’s choice, which anyone who has watched The Jersey Shore could easily predict from the end of round one. Despite the fact that the second girl on his team gave a fuller answer that actually made sense, he claimed, once on stage, that “If you looked up my type in the dictionary, there’s a great big picture of Elyse,” and chose the first girl.
Later episodes have featured female celebrities with male contestants and, from one other episode I regrettably watched, have the potential to be slightly less hectic than this first premier episode. Still, the main rule seems to be that if you want to win a date with a celebrity, your success depends on who the celebrity is. If you want a date with someone who is ambitious and career-focused, show interest in things that are relevant to him, like music. If you’re aiming for a date with someone with a sense of humor, make them laugh, even if the laughs are a result of coincidence. If you want to date someone sweet who cares about their family, show them that you are nice and family-oriented and be someone who he/she would want to take home to Mom. And, if you want to date someone who loves to party, look like someone he would want to take to the club and then, perhaps, home to his bedroom.
Then again, if you want to not blend into the crowd and be like every other date, just be yourself, give specificity in your answers that distinguish you from others, think on your feet, be memorable, and be real.
But perhaps the most valuable lesson from this show can be taken from the contestants that do not “win” the date. The dating world is crowded and competitive, and just because you may not be a particular person’s pick of the litter, doesn’t mean that you should give up. Sometimes you don’t stand a chance against the odds when someone has a “type” that you don’t fit into or when a simple coincidence sways them the opposite way. Most of the time, the reasons for not being “selected” are less obvious; but no matter what, it is important to remember that just as there are a million options out there for the other person, there are many options for you as well. Real life dating is more than a three-step process, but if you keep at it you may find that one day you have a dream date with the Choice of your own.
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