#62: The Dating Game
Syndication & GSN: (September 1996 - September 1997)
The landscape in Syndication in the mid 90s was one filled with Trashy Talk shows like Jenny Jones, Ricki Lake, Richard Bey, Sally Jesse Raphael and Jerry Springer. It was also filled with opinionated shows like Dennis Prager & El Rushbo himself, Rush Limbaugh. It was as if daytime TV was completely devoid of game shows. However, in 1996 Columbia-Tristar decided to revive two classic shows in The Newlywed Game and The Dating Game. The Newlywed Game was hosted by former SNL Alum Gary Kroeger and featured a way different format than what the original shows had. I'm still torn on how to go about that one because while the format was cohesive enough, the set nice, and the host was ok, it just wasn't The Newlywed Game we were accustomed to. But its sister show, The Dating Game also underwent quite a few changes as well. Unfortunately, the was made worse.
To start, we got Whose Line regular Brad Sherwood as host. This would be his first hosting experience, and unfortunately unlike his Whose Line performance, his hosting here leaves much to be desired. He comes off as an obnoxious prat instead of a good conduit and mediator for the show itself. He would crack wise at various points instead of being more interested about the dater and potential mates. In short, think of his announcing on The Price Is Right, which is horrendous by itself, but actually on screen. So yeah, be prepared to fakeness and groaning.
The set was a complete departure from any form of Dating Game. Sure there was the wall, that separated the Dater and the 3 potential dates, but instead of having the smallish set that all the other versions had, this version had quite a large set, and to be honest, it's kind of a waste. The previous versions embraced simplicity. This set, albeit nice, is quite a radical departure from what the show needs.
The rest of the show is just one big step downward. Instead of one woman or man asking 3 mysterious bachelors a bunch of questions, you know, like how the Dating Game normally works. We start by meeting the bachelorette and then we meet the 3 bachelors....BY NAME! This completely unveils the mystery that would be known with the old show. Mainly because in the old days the three bachelors would be introduced with the bachelorette backstage in a sound proof room. Now it's just, here they are, you know the names, let's do something.
What did they do? Well, like I said, Instead of the bachelorette asking random questions, the new producers thought that it would be brilliant to rip off Studs by having the picker see 2 "punny" statements pertaining to one of the 3 bachelors. They would pick one and then the person that fit that statement, would explain why that is true. They would go about doing this for around 5 or so statements, because almost after every one, Brad would have to make some lame joke or pun himself. Then afterwards, I guess to appease the old school fans of the show, the bachelorette would ask one question to all 3 bachelors and they would give their answer in old school Dating Game Form.
What is probably the biggest sin, at least in Dating Game lore, is they instituted a completely different format for certain weeks. This one involved more about looks and human nature rather than knowing more about the others. the bachelorette would observe the three bachelors on what they were doing, but the contestants would be wearing noise-cancelling headphones so they didn't know what the bachelorette would know what she was saying about them. Then after the game, the person would pick one based on looks and the other on personality. Afterwards, they would pick from that two. If they were one in the same though, the person would win $500.
Either way you slice it, it's just not The Dating Game and many people knew that. After the sound rejection of the horrid formats, bad hosting by Brad Sherwood, the complete devoidness of anything good about the show, and oddly enough boredom, the ratings were corpsing. Wait a tick, THE DATING GAME IS CORPSING?!
Thus, The Dating Game was Fixed.
Starters, the set went back to a classic Dating Game motif. Not only that, a remade theme of the classic theme was in place. Not only did it sound good, it felt good. Now, with Jim Lange enjoying retirement, we needed someone to help fill that classic void. With Brad Sherwood safely in England doing something he's good at: Whose Line is it Anyway?, a host with experience was needed to take charge and control everything.
I guess if Lange was retired, Chuck Woolery would be the next best thing. With 10 years of Love Connection, he had the power and know-how to do this show. Not only that, The old format was reinstated. It was a return to the classic game we all knew and love. 3 bachelors or bachelorettes, one picker, firing off random questions to ask, and all was right as rain for two more seasons of new episodes, and one more in reruns in nationwide syndication before leaving the airwaves in 2000 to make room for tons more dating shows that based themselves off of Blind Date or 5th Wheel.
But it just goes to show you that classic formats can work in the modern world. And it's also a prime lesson to every producer of shows: Change for the Sake of change doesn't work at all.
I'm looking at you Michael Davies.
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