“People can’t get enough of ‘love television.’ We love these crazy trainwrecks,” said Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker” star Patti Stanger at WE tv’s “The Evolution of Relationship Reality Shows” panel at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills on Thursday night.
A show of these beloved “crazy trainwrecks” were on hand to discuss the continually burgeoning genre in honor of the 50th anniversary of “The Dating Game,” the granddaddy of shows like “The Bachelor” and Stanger’s “Matchmaker.” On the red carpet preceding the panel, titans of reality romance shared their thoughts on ‘love TV.’
“Everybody can relate,” said Chris Harrison, who moderated the panel and hosts ABC’s “The Bachelor.” The reality TV veteran attributes viewers’ insatiable appetites for these shows to their universal theme: love. “It’s the one currency around the world that everybody uses and everybody understands. Everybody wants companionship. That’s not going to go out of style,” he said.
Trista Sutter, the original star of “The Bachelorette,” spoke to the effect social media has had on the way viewers relate to contestants. Sutter is thankful that she didn’t have to deal with Twitter when she was first on the air. “Evolution, in general, has changed media, but (it’s) especially (changed) reality television in how people have access to people that they are fans of, or maybe not fans of,” she said.
Game show icon Bob Eubanks (“The Newlywed Game”) also had a few thoughts about the current state of romance-based reality television, lamenting the salacious nature of contemporary examples of the genre. “We used to have a metaphor: You never take the teddy off the girl. Once you get dirty, there’s only one place to go, and that’s to get dirtier, so that kind of bothers me sometimes,” Eubanks said. “But I enjoy watching,” he added.
Stanger and fellow panelist Dr. Yvonne Capehart (“Sex Box”) were both vocal in their disagreement with Eubanks’ rejection of including sex in the programming. Capehart, who has been the target of much criticism for the racy “Sex Box,” argues that discussing sexual situations on television is beneficial to viewers who otherwise don’t know how to address the important topic. “People watching at home have an opportunity to hear something that is said that they might not have been able to bring up with their partner,” Capehart pointed out. “They have an opportunity to say, ‘OK, now that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!’ I think people tune in to these shows looking for answers as well as entertainment.”
As far as the future of the genre is concerned, all of the panelists agreed that shows of this nature are here to stay.
Stanger, who recently celebrated 100 episodes of “Millionaire Matchmaker,” predicts that these shows’ themes will get more and more specific. For example, Stanger revealed that she’s “working on a show called ‘Mormon Matchmaker’ right now.” She went on to explain: “I think you’re going to see more counterculture stuff, where you get into a subset of a religion or group — swingers, singles, whatever — and you’re going to watch different types. I think that’s where the dating sites are going: into these niche genres.”
Heidi Montag (one half of the notorious celebrity couple that also comprises husband Spencer Pratt) foresees the genre getting even more outrageous. “I think it’s going to get crazy,” she said. “People are less sensitized to entertainment. People want to see crazier, harder, faster. It’s just getting more competitive, as well. It’s going to get pretty crazy. ‘Hunger Games,’ here we come!”
[Pictured: TV personalities (front row l-r) Dr. Yvonne Capehart, Bob Eubanks, Chuck Woolery and Darva Conger; (2nd row) Patti Stanger, Trista Sutter, Heidi Montag and Evan Marriott; (back row) Chris Harrison, Sean Lowe and Spencer Pratt]