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TV Review: ‘Ready for Love’

Ah, the good ol’ days of reality shows, when networks were content to just knock off one existing hit. Today, the trend seems to be toward Frankenstein-like mash-ups, which explains NBC’s “Ready for Love,” an ungainly mixture of “The Bachelor” and any number of Bravo shows, with gameshow-style studio-audience elements of “The Dating Game” and relationship “mentoring” a la “Dr. Phil” thrown in for good measure. NBC launched “Ready for Love” on Tuesday with a bloated two-hour premiere. And while the soapy, dating-coach aspects could certainly tap into fans of the genre (particularly for the snark factor), one suspects many gawkers lured in via “The Voice” lead-in were ready for bed well before the show ended.

Although the program (produced by Eva Longoria, who provided an extended “We’ll show you the entire season in four minutes” introduction before disappearing) will focus on three bachelors who appear to need absolutely no help getting laid, the opener focused exclusively on Tim Lopez, the guitarist of Plain White T’s. As in “Hey There Delilah,” can’t you just go out and pick up groupies like a normal rock star?

But no, the divorced Tim is ready for you-know-what, and thus free to pick from among a dozen women assembled by a trio of matchmakers. Told by host Giuliana Rancic he would have to quickly jettison the first batch without the benefit of seeing them, Tim responded, “I’m not superficial,” which given the context might be the funniest thing said on NBC since “Frasier” signed off. (On the plus side, it was hard not to hum his band’s catchy “Rhythm of Love,” so Tim might wind up scoring in more ways than one.)

Add to the twists the fact Tim knew and had a complicated history with one of the women, which seems like a silly wrinkle, there strictly to tilt the playing field and heighten the drama. The commercial breaks, too, were almost comically exaggerated, as in, “The person I choose is” — click.

Frankly, NBC would have done the producers a favor by launching the show at an hour, instead of asking them to vamp through such a protracted winnowing process. “Over-produced” is seldom an insult in this genre, but “Get on with it, for crissakes” is. (Update: Ratings did show people tuning out as the show wore on.)

Other aspects of “Ready for Love” were equally puzzling. Bill Rancic, for instance, went unseen for long stretches, making one wonder why his wife needed him along for the ride as co-host. And it feels like something of a gamble to start over entirely next week with the other bachelors who don’t have chart-topping singles to go with their well-chiseled abs.

In hindsight, the night’s most clever moment actually might have belonged to Investigation Discovery, which (on the NBC station I was watching, anyway) dropped in a promo for its cheeky reality show “Dates From Hell” — piggybacking on what will likely be a much bigger audience.

Then again, as the women who were sent home can testify, all’s fair in love and war — especially when it’s being waged in front of a hooting studio audience.

Ready for Love

(Series; NBC, Tue. April 9, 9 p.m.)

Hosts: Giuliana Rancic, Bill Rancic

Produced by Renegade 83, UnbeliEVAble Entertainment and Universal Television. Executive producers, Jason Ehrlich, David Garfinkle, Greg Goldman, Eva Longoria, Jay Renfroe; co-executive producers, Susan House, Kevin Finn; supervising producers, Camilo Valdes, Stephen Hurley, Christine Grund; director, Alex  Rudzinski; production designer, Anton Goss; casting, Robyn Kass. 120 MIN.

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