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"The Dating Experiment" Review

By Shawn McKenzie 07/03/2003

As reality shows search for fresh ways to do the same stuff, we now get ABC’s “The Dating Experiment.”  It is a dating show that attempts to put real people in a clichéd chick flick situation to see if they will fall in love at the end, just like a clichéd chick flick.  I think I’d like the show a little better if it weren’t so cheesy, like most chick flicks.


Based off a Japanese reality show called “The Future Diary,” the show puts two (or sometimes three) complete strangers together in unusual ways.  They agree to do exactly what a series of red diaries tell them to do without argument (though they do allow plenty of whining), with the hopes that their “story” will end happily.  They have to give up their money and credit cards, and are cut off from their friends and family for five or six days.  The couples are assigned temporary homes and aren’t allowed to contact the other person until the diary tells them to do so (if they’ve never met, how would they know how to contact each other?)  The diary then makes the participants do unusual things, like visit Alcatraz and become trapped there.  Not only does the diary tell them to go places, it tells them to do stuff, like kiss each other goodnight.  After pitting the participants in a series of wacky situations, the diary tells them to part ways “forever” (yeah, right.)  After they part, they are allowed to write the last entry in the diary, which is their decision on whether or not they want to continue the relationship (in the two episodes I’ve seen so far, it ends happy.)  Hector Elizondo narrates the show.


In the first episode, we meet Morgan and Shy, a couple of bartenders.  They first meet at the above-mentioned Alcatraz, and miss the last ferry back to the shore.  They have to spend the night there, and they get off on the wrong foot.  They warm up to each other on the next day, but the show puts an obstacle in their way:  a romantic threat from a guy named Jody.  He flirts with Shy and makes Morgan jealous (he disappears after that day though.)  On the third day, they have to compete against each other in a bartending skills competition.  The loser had to say all the things that person loved about the other person.  Morgan loses of course (you have seen Coyote Ugly, right?)  Shy is flattered by all of Morgan’s comments about how hot she is, but is upset later when she realizes that he didn’t mention any of her personality traits.  The next day they go skydiving, and their car is towed away while they are doing that.  Morgan has to peddle Sky back to town own a passenger bike (they go about five miles before a limo picks them up.)  On the last day, they both arrange a last romantic get together.  Sky has to wash dishes to set up a romantic dinner, and Morgan has to cut flowers to set up a romantic reunion back at Alcatraz, where they will be spending their last minutes together “ever.”  They both whine about how they really like each other now and don’t want it to end.  At this point I’m wondering what is going to stop them from hooking up later.  Did the show threaten to sue them if they hooked up after the cameras stopped rolling?  I don’t know why they wasted so much time stressing about it all “coming to an end.”  They discover the next day that they can write the last entry in the diary, and meet again at Alcatraz, where they walk off together in the sunset (though Sky did make Morgan wait all day there.)


In the second episode, we meet best friends Geoff and Christian.  They are both competing for the affections of a woman named Tiana.  They meet her on the beach, and the diary tells them to compete against each other in a one-on-one soccer competition (taking advantage of their professional soccer skills.)  The winner got to take Tiana out to a yacht and the loser had to swim out to the yacht.  Geoff wins, and gets some alone time with Tiana before Christian arrives (though he is sick when he gets there.)  The next day, the boys have to wrestle each other for an evening alone with Tiana.  Geoff wins again and spends the evening having a romantic dinner with Tiana.  The diary tells Christian where they are and to spy on them.  The show makes you think he might be caught, but he doesn’t.  On day three, Christian finally gets some alone time with her, and it consists of hiking and cliff diving.  On day four, during a picnic, they both grill Tiana with “dealbreaker” questions (questions that test a woman’s personality traits to see if they match their own.  If they are too far out of whack or something they can’t put up with, it is a deal breaker.)  That night, the diary tells Tiana to give Geoff a foot massage.  By this point I know that Christian is going to end up with Tiana, because if I know my chick flicks, it is the underdog who always gets the girl.  After the foot massage, Geoff jokes about Tiana’s age (she is an elderly 29, while Geoff and Christian are 26 and 25, respectively.)  She is ticked off by it and is totally turned-off by him.  On day five, the diary gives Christian a blank billboard to express his feelings about Tiana and Geoff a weird set of strings that he sets on fire to spell out an apology to Tiana.  She forgives him, but decides to hook up with Christian anyway, after a final night back on the yacht (see, I told you!)


Despite their attempts, the show still comes off looking like any other dating show.  It is shot on film, adding that cinematic look to it, and the Elizondo narration is a nice touch.  The diaries are so cheesy though!  They try to make it look so dramatic at the end when they write their final chapters.  They attempt to add the tension of if it will end happy.  The bizarre situations they put the people in are somewhat lame.  Yet, I find the show interesting in a weird way.

The Dating Experiment” is one of those shows that you can watch in any order.  If you like chick flicks, you might like this reality show version of them.  Next week they are kind of going after the Pretty Woman story by pairing a guy up with a stripper, only he doesn’t know her profession and she’s not allowed to tell it to him.  It sounds interesting, but there has got to be a better way to direct the action than those goofy diaries.  All I know is that it will end up happy, since I know my chick flicks inside out!


Ratings System:


Try to catch this show every week...

If a better show is on, tape this one...

If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...

If this show is on, change the channel immediately!


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