The sitcom-style reality show gets two new permutations that air directly opposite each other starting March 9 — one aimed conspicuously at guys, the other skewed toward women. Spike will roll out the former, the Adam Carolla vehicle “Catch a Contractor,” a seemingly cathartic concept for anyone who has ever lived through a painful home remodel; while Bravo saddles what amounts to a blind-dating show with the unwieldy title “Online Dating Rituals of the American Male.” Both have conceptual assets, but they reinforce the notion the reality genre is out of new ideas, and thus settling for repackaging old ones.
Although he once shared a couch with Jimmy Kimmel on “The Man Show,” Carolla now winds up in lower-rent districts like this, or serving as one of Fox News Channel’s house clowns.
Here, he puts his experience working in construction to use, teaming with contractor Skip Bedell and his wife, private investigator Alison Bedell, to confront “shady, evasive contractors,” as Spike describes them, trying to coerce or shame them into helping fix the messes they created. In the premiere, that involves a family that’s been sleeping in the living room for months after the contractor took their money and then didn’t complete the job.
Of course, it would be so much simpler to just sic the Better Business Bureau on these alleged ne’er-do-wells, but where’s the show in that? Besides, abusing the contractors offers Carolla an opportunity to deliver some funny lines at their expense, like appraising a picture of the first target — who looks like he hasn’t driven past many donut shops — and saying, “This guy lives at the gym.”
Still, the exercise doesn’t feel as expurgating as it should, despite Carolla’s gibes and Bedell’s indignation. Perhaps that’s because the whole thing, even in a half-hour package, sort of feels like using a bazooka to kill a cockroach.
Which, come to think of it, is basically the Spike formula in a nutshell.
As for Bravo’s contribution, each episode of “Online Dating Rituals of the American Male” follows two guys as they go through various online dates, either looking for something serious or, as one says in the premiere, “I’m just a Texas boy trying to get laid.”
The direct-to-camera interviews feature not just the two men, but also their dates, which can range from promising to train wreck. Yet while there are certain issues particular to online dating — how accurate is that picture profile, anyway? — the idea that this offers any kind of sociological insight (the show promises “an inside look at the male psyche”) quickly gives way to the customary tricks of the trade.
Moreover, by jettisoning the participants after each hour, “Dating Rituals” doesn’t provide any sort of progression, but merely a series of snapshots — essentially, 50 first dates (if the show lives that long).
It’s too bad, since “Catfish” (first the documentary, then the MTV show) has exposed some of the intricacies and dangers of this world where romance is mediated through a Web connection. Given the opportunity to offer its own insights — which is surely the peek-behind-the-curtain come-on to viewers — Bravo has retreated to its comfort zone, with a whole lot of vamping for the cameras and implied rim shots.
Then again, it’s oddly appropriate that these first episodes of “Rituals” would be guilty of what so many dating online already do — namely, pretending to be something they’re not.