#140 - Love Connection: The 1998 Version
What happens when you revive a great show with an inferior product.

 

Syndication (1998-1999)
Text by: Robert Seidelman


When you revive a well-known entity in the game show world, you can do several things with it to varying results.  For example, you can revive a product, keep it mainly the same, but add a few new twists to make it more exciting for viewers at home.  Mark Goodson did this a lot when updating some of his shows from the 50s and 60s.  For example, he took the classic word game, Password, added some clever word puzzles and a very creative end game and came up with Password Plus.  Despite many time slot changes and the death of long-time host Allen Ludden, the revival ran for 3 1/3 years on NBC Daytime from 1979-1982.  He would later add a bonus word called the Cashword and add a big money bonus game called Super Password and inserting a fresh off of Tattletales Bert Convy in the host spot and Password would live on for 4 1/2 years on NBC in the Noon slot as Super Password from 1984 to March of 1989 where it was cancelled alongside Sale of the Century. 

Conversely, you could make so many changes to a show that it no longer resembles the show that you are reviving and just hope that the name itself would bring in viewers.  This is what happened with Temptation: The New Sale of the Century.  The show never got off the ground at all and wound up limping along throughout the 2007-2008 television before being put out of its misery.  The show today, made no major changes to the show, except for its host and its set.  The show was basically the same, but why when a show only makes two changes wind up here? 

Well, let's take a look at Love Connection's revival in 1998.

The show started in 1983 and ended in 1994 and hosted by Chuck Woolery.  The classic 2 and 2 tagline by Chuck Woolery and the descriptions of dates gone bad by people who weren't really who they said they were in the videos they made for the show.  According to the Big Chuck Wagon himself, 22,000 couples met on the show.  Out of those 22,000 couples, 29 got married, 8 got engaged and 15 had children.  A great accomplishment for any show of that type.  Now, with the show being revived in 1998, they weren't going to get Chuck Woolery.  Why you ask? 

He was busy helping create couples on the revival of The Dating Game.  It only seemed natural for Chuck to do this since nobody remembered any dating show host aside from Chuck in the 70s or 80s.  Not only that, he was sharp on the Dating Game as he was on Love Connection. So, they had to find someone who could get good information out of the couples, like Chuck.  They also needed to find someone who was charming and an overall gentlemen, like Chuck.  They also needed someone who could come up with quick quips that are not only funny, but also memorable, like Chuck.  So, who did the powers that be get to fill in for Chuck?

 AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

That's right.  The bane of my existence on this website, Pat Bullard was selected to host.  He is everything that Chuck wasn't.  He was annoying, he wasn't funny, and he seemed more to get himself over with the television audience rather than putting the focus on the dates and the people themselves.  Pat was everything that I despise in a game show host.  He was like that unfunny schmuck at every party that was there just for the food or because he tagged along with someone that you were great friends with that you hated. 

Another thing that didn't sit too well with me was the set that the show came on.  This really didn't look like a set that resembled "Love Connection".  Gone were the hearts that the people sat on or in the background above the host and dater, and gone were all the nice colors that the site exhumed.  Instead, we have two couches bought at the local thrift shop with $20 in someone's pocket who was a huntin' and looking for a come-up because it was "f'n awesome".  The only resemblance to the old set was when the contestants were being introduced with what looked like the old logo.  While I can admire someone modernizing the set, this set just looked like some C-Level talk show, maybe from Pat Bullard's talk show which was cancelled prior to this show debuting. 

What ultimately doomed this version of Love Connection was the couples and the stories themselves.  While back in the 80s, we never got to see the actual stories of what happened during the date.  We had the setting up of dates in "The Dating Game" and the early arguments with "The Newlywed Game".  Love Connection filled that void spectacularly and with stories that were genuinely interesting and sometimes downright shocking.  In 1998, both Dating and Newlywed were there, but we also were seeing bitter collapses of relationships with the talk shows of the day, especially with ones that are still around with Jerry Springer and Maury Povich.  This version's stories seemed so tame and stereotypical that it just seemed lame by comparison.  Sure, there were good stories that we got to hear, but you'd be lucky to get one good story out of a full week of shows.  Most of that can be put directly on Pat Bullard. 

Chuck always seemed to get the best material out of his guests by the questions he would pose to both sides.  Not only that, his experience with some of the weirder contestants thrown his way on Wheel of Fortune and Scrabble helped build some great rapport with the daters.  Pat's only experience with the common folk was with the audience members during Baloney or his talk show.  Hold Everything was shot in a dump of a studio and everything was canned and vacuum packed so tightly that you could have stamped SPAM on it and couldn't tell the difference between the real thing.  Pat never really did feel that comfortable with talking about people's romantic stories to begin with.  He specialized in dumb humor, which was prevalent all throughout the 2001 abortion of Card Sharks and his last show, Here Comes the Newlyweds on ABC from 2008-2009 during the Writers Guild Strike. 

The nation at this time wanted provocative and outrageous, Love Connection offered neither during its run and was cancelled after only one year on the air.  Newer and more provocative dating shows would spring up.  Some were great, some were downright terrible, but we'll talk about that later in the month.  Love Connection back when Chuck was an innocent show that just had the "guilty pleasures" tag match it perfectly.  This show just seemed flat compared to what else was out there.  Especially one year later we'd have two much better shows like this with Blind Date, which actually saw the date unfold and Change of Heart, which saw the crux between staying with their mate or leaving them for the other date the show arranged for them. 

Long story short: Don't hire Pat Bullard and simply change with the times.