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MTV’s ‘Are You the One’ Matches Millennial Viewers Via Modern-Day Dating Mentality

MTV’s “Are You The One” has set itself apart from other reality dating competitions with its social experiment matchmaking element, and as the show enters its third season, the twists keep on coming. But while evolving, “AYTO” has stayed true to representing modern-day dating mentality.

The dating competition, which houses twenty 20-somethings under the same roof, in hopes that they find their “perfect match” all while $1 million is on the line, brings yet another new game addition to Season 3: the “blackout” — and that’s not referring to the contestants’ alcohol-induced state of minds.

The blackout penalty results when the group completely strikes out at a match-up ceremony, which occurs at the end of each episode. The ceremonies gather the entire house, putting the men and women to the test, as they give their best guesses for their perfect match — if a pairing is correct, a beam of light brightens; if a couple is wrong in their guess, the beam is not lit; if the entire house strikes out with incorrect choices, the blackout comes into play. The penalty immediately costs $250,000 of the house’s potential shared prize money of $1 million, meaning four blackouts signify empty pockets for the players.

“It makes the match-up ceremonies even more stake-filled. You go in there knowing that you’ve gotta find what you’re looking for because if not, it can hurt the whole group,” says Rob LaPlante, exec at Lighthearted Entertainment, the production company behind “Are You The One.”

LaPlante’s Lighthearted partner Jeff Spangler adds that the new twist for Season 3 will also serve as a tool to show contestants’ true colors, as the motive behind reality cast members on dating shows is often questioned. “In the history of the show, there is a very consistent debate about love and money. The blackout penalty only exponentially increases that,” he says.

However, when comparing “Are You The One” to other reality dating shows, both execs say the MTV love-fest is successful, in terms of finding real relationships, which they attribute to the overall understanding of how people date today.

“I think that millennial generations look at dating differently — in their own way. The great thing with ‘AYTO’ is that in a few different ways, it’s completely embraces how they look at dating. Dating and technology, for millennials, is very integrated,” LaPlante notes, drawing a comparison to the algorithmic match-making on their show. “If you think about things like eHarmony, the dating site literally uses algorithmic match-making to find matches.”

Spangler adds, “It’s sort of like real-life Tinder. People try to figure out which ones to swipe right on.”

LaPlante and Spanlger share the secret behind “Are You The One’s” success, and tell Variety about Season 3.

You had a twist in Season 2 (bringing in an 11th girl), and now there is a new change with the blackout penalty for Season 3. Why do you like to switch up the format season-to-season?

Spangler: We don’t like to add anything to any show to give it a “twist.” It always has to come from a place that supports the format and focuses it, and really what [the blackout] is doing is focusing on what the task is at hand. This is going to test the waters.

Will we see an 11th girl or boy this season, or is that a thing of the past?

LaPlante: The 11th girl twist is gone. We went back to basics with ten girls and ten guys. I think the audience wants something to look forward to every season. We want to be careful always not to joke the joke, as they say. We’re very careful about adding these twists to these shows.

Any big changes in casting this season?

LaPlante: I think Season 3 is very representative of the age, in that you have such a wide range of characters in different life stages and where they are personally in their journey to find love. This cast is slightly older, but maybe only by one or two years, and one of the reasons we collectively did that is because we did want people to be a little bit more mature and feel like they’re a little bit more set in their ways — which can also get in the way sometimes of what they’re looking for. This cast also really kind of bucked up against the process, which I think, is going to be fun for the audience. It’s a very relatable cast in that regard — they don’t just completely surrender to everything that’s in front of them. Because they’re fighting more, it makes for a more interesting journey. From episode one, there are fireworks from the beginning and they continue all the way to the end of the season.

But not too mature, right? Part of the best made-for-TV moments hail from the young cast making life mistakes — quite frankly, while being drunk.

Spangler: Yes. And that’s not very far from what their reality is. In your early 20s, there’s a lot of love, lust and alcohol — that’s kind of what they’re doing in real life. They just happen to all be put in one house.

How’s the cast this season, in comparison to past seasons?

LaPlante: There was an abundant feeling of this being the hottest cast ever. If you like either male or females, someone will check your boxes for you. It’s a good looking group and, I think, head to toe, the best looking group we’ve every had on the show. And that’s saying a lot because all of our casts have been hot.

Have you considered casting gay contestants, or is that not doable because it would make the “perfect matches” too obvious?

LaPlante: There’s always a possibility, but there becomes an obvious issue there when part of the cast is homosexual because they’ll know who they’re attracted to. We’ve also discussed people who don’t know their sexuality. We’re absolutely open to that and continue to bat around the idea.

What would you say is the theme for this season?

Spangler: What it really comes down to is it’s more that they get confused by the two. Chemistry, though important, is not everything in a relationship. That is a difficult lesson to learn and I think it’s one eventually that we all eventually do learn, but these kids are right in the middle of it — basically their heart is going in one direction, but they’re heading into a relationship that is volatile. You’re drawn to them from a chemical standpoint, but that’s not necessarily what you need from a mental standpoint.

LaPlante: A big theme this season is love verses lust. When you’re in your early 20s, lust is very prevalent, but at the same time, when you’re finding someone who is your perfect match that you can potentially have a long time relationship, it’s not just about lust — it’s about love. We’re really pushing them to get over their dating and choosing patterns that they’ve had. This is the ultimate motivator to get past that douche-bag-y choice of the past.

“Are You The One” Season 3 premieres Sept. 24 on MTV at 11/10c, before moving to its regular timeslot: Wednesdays at 10/9c.

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