Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The Celebrity Dating Game



Just when you thought broadcast television could not get any more insipid, along comes the CELEBRITY DATING GAME.   All of ABC’s “celebrity” game show remakes are abominable, but this one might just be the worst.  So congratulations to them.  It take a lot to be worse than a show starring Anthony Anderson's mother.

The original DATING GAME had its charm.  There were stupid questions and answers (I know.  I was a two-time contestant), but this was the 1960’s before single bars, matchmaking services, Tinder.  And the couples went on actual dates.  More about that later.

Jim Lange hosted the original with poise and gravitas.  This new version, for unfathomable reasons, is hosted by Zoey Deshanel and even more mystifying, co-hosted by Michael Bolton.   Imagine Alex Trebek being replaced on JEOPARDY by Paris Hilton.  Zoey’s not even adorkable anymore.  She's just.. out of place and with zero hosting skills. And Bolton has become Lurch of THE ADDAMS FAMILY. 

The celebrities are the ones looking for dates.  Huge celebrities like Hannah Brown.  The bachelors have to guess who she is.  Hint:  It’s not Taylor Swift.  One moron said Taylor Swift. I saw this on THE MASKED SINGER too where knothead judge, Jenny McCarthy thought one of the singers was Taylor Swift.  News flash:  TAYLOR SWIFT IS NOT GOING TO DO ONE OF THESE STUPID SHOWS.  A better guess is one of the extras on GLADIATOR. 

Some game shows age well.  Others don’t.  Since we’re now in the #MeToo era, the flirting and clumsy seduction that goes on feels really creepy.  It’s from a different era.   Who’s nostalgic for lounge lizards?

Most of the CELEBRITY DATING GAME is filler.  There are three rounds of idiotic questions, not just one.  The vapid co-hosts toss in inane comments.  The bachelors are all central casting frat boys or braindead models.  Michael Bolton sings a song.  Again, what the hell is he doing on this thing?  

Everybody dances around, trying to generate this horrible fake party atmosphere.  And after watching a half-hour of this drivel, a winner is selected, and the show ends.  Hey, what about the fucking DATE?   They don’t even have a planned date.  My guess is the "celebrities" said "I don't want to be obligated to go on a date with one of these idiots."

But if that's the case, just what the hell is the point?  What are we watching?  Why on every level does this nonsense even exist?

Let me end by giving this show a big DATING GAME kiss… off. 


FFS said...

This is why people pay a streaming service to watch a 1998 British murder mystery or 2002 Scottish sitcom. Or Hacks … thank you Ken for the recommendation.

Curt Alliaume said...

I'm going to argue that The Dating Game pushed the boundaries of what was considered "good taste" in the 1960s, making up for a pretty weak format. (Really, there's no actual "game" involved, when you think about it.) Most of the more recent revivals have been propped up by being paired with The Newlywed Game, which has a stronger format.

That said, ABC has had a lot of success with new versions of classic game shows mostly by not monkeying around too much with the format (Card Sharks is one of the few exceptions). Given the overnights from Monday's show were down about 15 percent from the premiere (although it was up in the 18-49 demo) and the reviews have been horrendous, it may be one year and out.

Mike Barer said...

Terrible shows, especially in the summer, are very much part of TV's heritage. The difference is that the networks are not balancing them with quality shows.
At least, not from what I have observed.

D. McEwan said...

Speaking as a two-time Dating Game contestant (Won once, lost once) myself, I was genuinely appalled. First off, no actual celebrities. The two "celebrities" were both people I'd never heard of. They were "famous" (This must be some new meaning of the word "famous" with which I was not previously familiar) for shows I'd never heard of. Not merely never seen; never heard of. The "Guessing The Celebrity" part would have been impossible for me, as the celebrities were no more famous than the contestants.

And the dates? They mentioned at one point to a "celebrity" that they were choosing who they would go on a date with "LATER THAT NIGHT"! Was it dinner after the show? WHAT ABOUT THE DATES???

On the original show you competed for dates worth taking: trips or "celebrity" dates where you met celebrities - ACTUAL celebrities! On the date when I won, we went to the premiere of Isadora with Vanessa Redgrave and the buffet at Universal Studios afterwards. They sent a photographer to take pictures of us with celebs to show on the show. On my Dating Game date I got to meet Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero, Carol Burnett, Army Archard, Peter Lupus, and for me the highlight of the night: Elsa Lanchester! Since Bride of Frankenstein is my favorite movie, standing in a buffet line with Elsa, chatting about Bride on a sound stage where scenes from Bride had been shot, was on unforgettable experience. (I was 18 at the time.) Note that I did not need anyone to tell me who the celebrities were as they were real celebrities.

And the other couple that won on the episode I won on went to Belgium! I remember thinking, "Hey, I won just as well as the other couple; send US to Belgium! Dinner and a movie in Hollywood was my normal Friday night." (But standing in a buffet line with Elsa Lanchester, and watching in humiliation as my idiot date, in response to Vanessa Redgrave's question "What is 'The Dating Game'?", said, "You've never heard of The Dating Game?" and proceeded to take our time with her explaining to this goddess, whom I merely wanted to worship, exactly what The Dating Game was, in detail, was not a typical Friday night.)

In the early Dating Game days half a century ago, there would be occasional dates sent to Switzerland. The "Chaperone" went with them, handcuffed to a large, heavy suitcase. That case never made the return trip, and that "Chaperone" was Chuck Barris himself. Later Barris retired to the Cote D'Azur. Someone had put a LOT of money into a Swiss bank account for him.

Chuck Barris was a trip. I once spent half an hour chatting with him in my office at a radio station where I worked, and I did The Gong Show and The Gong Show Movie (From which my scene, which was with Barris himself, was cut) with him. What a character.

Philly Cinephile said...

Regarding your comments about Taylor Swift not doing these "celebrity" shows, there is a website (written by clueless interns who describe everything as "iconic," but that's a story for another day) that covers the entertainment industry, and whenever they post an article about a "celebrity" game show, the comments section fills up with angry posts from readers complaining about the lack of "real celebrities" on these shows, as if they expect Hollywood's A-list to line up for a spot on DANCING WITH THE STARS.

Epstein's Mom said...

I had to Google who Hannah Brown was.

So typical of "celebrity" TV shows...she's not a celebrity.

John Kurko said...

I lump this in with the other “reality” shows on both ABC (the bachelorette / the bachelor) and CBS (survivor / some island show) as pure cannon fodder and find them so typical for many of today’s American TV audiences. Reality . . . what reality? This is pandering to the lowest levels.

Give us some clever comedy, funny “cast” shows, genuinely thought provoking shows — not this mindless candy that’s about as mentally stimulating as dental floss.

I, for one, am glad that I had some great entertaining shows in my teen & young adult years: MASH, Cheers, Barney Miller, Night Court, All In The Family and shows that were witty & smart, that had writers who didn’t drop to the level of fart jokes or push the sexual innuendo every other line.

All I can say is, I’m glad I had good, entertaining and often thought provoking shows.

Chuck Cavender said...

Chuck Barris was a genius. His skill at crafting schlock into something truly entertaining was unmatched. I still think The Gong Show was one of American television's finest achievements. I think the secret is he never pretended he was creating Masterpiece Theater. As years go by, it becomes more obvious that some things just can't be taught in communications schools.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

ABC paired up "The Dating Game" and "The Newlywed Game" in the sixties, both on Saturday nights and the network's weekday afternoon schedule. Before I understood that such shows were on tape, I used to imagine Johnny Jacobs, the off-camera announcer on both programs, rushing out of the "Newlywed" studio, dashing across the lot, and hurrying into the "Dating" studio in time to say, "From Hollywood, the Dating Capital of the color!'s The Dating Game'"!

Chuck Barris really had the best idea: After 20 years of producing these shows, he sold his production company in 1987. Soon after, he moved to Saint Tropez to write books, emulating his friends Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, authors of "Is Paris Burning?" and other works.

It's a shame Barris will be remembered primarily for his television shows--fun as they were. He really was a talented, creative fellow, and a fine author and musician.

Ted. said...

The second episode featured a bigger celebrity: Iggy Azalea, the Australian singer-rapper who had some big hits a decade ago. It was funny, because none of the three contestants came close to figuring out who she was. (After finding out that she was Australian, they kept guessing the names of British celebrities.) Then, right at the end, they all suddenly knew the answer -- I'm guessing because a producer told them during a break, so as not to insult her further.

I agree that this show is a bore, and that none of the charm Zooey Deschanel demonstrated in "New Girl" carries over into her hosting duties here. But I actually like Michael Bolton in it -- he's developed a self-deprecating style that leavens his natural smarm, and still has a hell of a singing voice.

Jeff said...

Reminds me of the time on the Howard Stern Show when Stuttering John was a contestant on "I'm a Celebrity..Get Me Out of Here!". Artie Lange wisecracked: "They ought to do a celebrity version of that show."

sueK2001 said...

Okay. In the midst of this cohesive and "on point" rant, you drop this bombshell that you were a contestant. Please, please, please tell me that there's video of you on the Dating Game. This summer of entertainment has given us so little pleasure, we need Ken Levine on the Dating Game.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Based on what I just read I'm glad I missed it.

There is one game show that seems a natural for revival, the "Hollywood Squares." I'm very surprised that no one has brought it back yet. It could even have Ken's favorite comedian Ken Jeong as the center square. And I could host it. Yes. None of you know who I am. But I think Ken would agree that I could do a better job than a lot of the people currently hosting game shows.

Speaking of "Jeopardy;" Paris Hilton? Why didn't I think of that? That would be hilarious. I'd watch that.
And to add to my ever growing list of possible guest hosts I'd like to suggest Rosie Perez. Or better yet, Charro. She's still alive. I looked it up.


Roger Owen Green said...

Sometimes, you CAN tell the stupid by a 15- or 30-second ad. the new Dating Game falls hard into this category.

Douglas Trapasso said...

@MikeBloodworth - Squares seems to be an un-killable show; I have heard rumors that another remake is possible.

That will make a fun parlor game in these comments, should the rumor prove true: Who would -you- want in the Center Square (he'd probably never do it, but I'd put in a vote for Jon Stewart).

And say this about the original, Peter Marshall version: Most of those squares -were- stars, albeit from my parents' generation, and had the resumes to prove it.

Brandon in Virginia said...

This and Newlywed Game were never my favorites growing up, but if they were on, I'd watch. I tried to watch last week and made it 5 minutes.

Zooey trying to force a one-liner every 30 seconds really did it for me. Like I said, I was never a diehard watcher but I do remember the prior hosts let the jokes write themselves. I get the lack of innuendo with the "Me Too" movement, but the bachelors' answers made it seem like they were scared to go too far, so they kept it as G-rated as possible.

I have no idea why they thought Michael Bolton needed to be there, just like I have no idea as to why To Tell the Truth thinks we need Anthony's mom on stage. As much as I enjoy some of ABC's game show revivals, this one is a hard pass. Stop trying so hard to be quirky.

Brandon in Virginia said...

By the way, it's a few comments giving Hannah Brown crap for not appearing on their personal radar, which is a bit unfair. Merriam-Webster defines celebrity as "a famous or celebrated person". Hannah was on The Bachelorette, which has a following. Someone out there knows who she is.

I don't watch the show, nor had I heard of her before last week, but she fits the definition whether you want her to or not. Besides, Bachelorette comes on before DG, so of course ABC is going to cross-promote.

KB said...

I didn't watch. No interest. But all I can wonder is why Zoey Deshanel would think this is a good career choice. Did she just blow all that "New Girl" money?

Mike Chimeri said...

I tolerate the new Celebrity Dating Game. I don't hate it, but I don't like it that much, either. I admit I only saw half of the second episode because WABC joined late due to a tornado warning in the Hudson Valley. Coming in cold after five minutes or so wasn't an option for me, so I skipped to Iggy Azalea. I admit I've never heard her music, but I have heard a great Weird Al Yankovic parody of one of her songs. Zooey Deschanel has a shrill voice, but somehow, I tolerate her. I've always liked Michael Bolton--though not enough to buy his albums--and I, too, appreciate his self-deprecating humor. The musical portion is weird, though. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Cheche Alara, who also scores the To Tell the Truth revival, magically appears at piano (I thought Michael played) and an invisible band backs him up. I will probably give up on the show at some point, but for now, I'll continue to watch tolerably Tuesday mornings on my DVR.

Speaking of TTTT, I already gave up on it because the panelists are snarky to the point of coming off as a-holes. Joel McHale, who I used to like, is one such panelist. Not even Mama Doris could keep me on the show's bandwagon.

Brian said...

Everybody knows Chuck Berris was a CIA hitman and the dating game was used so he could travel to exotic destinations to whack somebody. Office space summed it up about Michael Bolton:

Anonymous said...

What has happened now is that one can be a contestant on one show and that qualifies you as a celebrity on another show. The words "reality star" and "internet sensation" are familiar terms now for these shows and it makes the pickings lean for booking a level above the labels on the shows. Hollywood still has a caste system just as viewers do. So why would a moderate-level celebrity risk their status level? Michael Ché of SNL made sure he said over and over again that he was on the new Match Game "as a favor." Okay, very good, Michael, good luck with that.

DwWashburn said...

Game shows are my weakness. Love 'em, love 'em. And I agree that the "celebrity" game reboots have been bad. However I don't consider either Pyramid or To Tell the Truth (TTTT) to be "celebrity" games because the original versions used celebrities too. They have not been forced into the game like Feud, Wheel, or Dating Game.

And my favorite of the ABC reboots is TTTT. I agree that "Mama Doris" really drags the game down with her mugging and racist comments. But the gameplay is much faster than the 50s original and it really looks like both the contestants and the panelists are having fun. That adds to the enjoyment of viewing.

DBenson said...

For a year or so I never missed "Blind Date". The appeal was that most of the dates were clearly designed to be train wrecks, and I doubt I was the only one who took comfort in watching handsome cretins crash and burn, usually because they were playing to the camera in an attempt to be Discovered. My own dating life was dismal, but not disastrous. If a "Blind Date" couple hit it off, I got depressed.

There was a neat one-joke item called "The Joe Schmoe Show". It was a generic reality game with a bunch of people stuck in a mansion, but in fact the whole thing was scripted and everybody knew it ... except one guy, the Joe Schmoe. A second season involved a fake matchmaking show, this time with two Schmoes, male and female. A few episodes in the woman figured out what was going on, and they quickly recruited her to help keep the lone real guy in the dark. Problem was, I began to suspect THAT was scripted.

A long-ago game show I wanted to like was called "Whodunit" or something similar. The idea was the contestants would witness a mini-murder mystery played out onstage, then get to "interrogate" the suspects. I recall the first victim was Jack Klugman, poisoned on an airliner. I don't remember if it lasted more than one week, but it struck me that doing a new murder each week with fresh cast and sets wasn't a practical model. What might be viable would be doing a standard "Murder She Wrote" style show and then insert a live game show bit before the final break, where contestants offer their deductions and choose their killer. Maybe allow home viewers to text their own picks, as an informal measure of how easy or hard it was.

Ted. said...

@Mike Bloodworth @Douglas Trapasso -- Center square for a "Hollywood Squares" revival? It 100% has to be Nathan Lane. Pay me, Hollywood! (OK, I'll accept a lifetime supply of Turtle Wax.)

Mike Doran said...

DBenson mentions a briefly-seen game called Whodunnit?

This was originally a production of Thames Television, which ran on Britain's ITV for a number of seasons in the '70s.

For most of the run, the host was Jon Pertwee, aka the Third Doctor Who; there was a celebrity panel (British celebrities, but what did you expect?), and civilian contestants from the audience, for a show that ran about 45 minutes.

I've got the whole series on imported DVDs, which is how I know all this.

The US version ran as a short-flight on NBC in the spring of 1979.
There were civilian panelists in the first couple of shows, plus a celebrity panel featuring people like F. Lee Bailey and Melvin Belli, plus true-crime writers from all over; the civilians were dropped two shows in, but Bailey & Belli and the spare celeb stayed for the full six-show run.
The US host was Ed McMahon, totally miscast: I would have used a TV cop type, like Leslie Nielsen or J.D. Cannon - but hey, that's me ...
The "guest star victim" was a gimmick here: in addition to Jack Klugman, others who were offed included Erik Estrada, Loni Anderson, Mike Connors, Vic Tayback, and Audra Lindley.
(The British version didn't do this.)
Anyway, the US Whodunnit? was six-and-out, So There Too.

Did I mention here (or was it somewhere else) that I'd heard, but can't confirm, that when ABC was putting the new To Tell The Truth together, that they made an offer of a guest appearance to Orson Bean - who saw what they were doing to the format and turned them down flat?
Bean, who'd done the classic TTTT for over a decade, had great respect for the show, and wanted no part of the "updated version"; his tragic death put paid to the whole idea anyway ...
As I said above, I don't know that this is what happened, but it seems right to me ...

Joseph Williams said...

Have you sampled the only original celebrity game show currently in syndication, “25 Words or Less” hosted by Meredith Vierra? It’s like Password, but with time and word count limits. Some celebrities like Wendy Malick and Peri Gilpin looked lost on it while Raven-Seymone and Melissa Peterman are very competitive.

Michael L. said...

Just when I thought broadcast networks have hit the bottom.... I find they are still digging that hole. Gotta admire their consistency at finding useless crap to air. Makes you long for a fun packed episode of 'Battle of the Network Stars'.

Barry Traylor said...

Loved the snarky review. I tend to avoid shows like this like the plague.

David said...

One of the most popular quiz shows on British TV. It has a celebrity version called, delightfully, Pointless Celebrities.

JS said...

I watched about 10 minutes of it flipping through the channels. I also thought, what is Michael Bolton doing on this thing? But, Michael Bolton hasn't had a hit in about 20 years so.....

Zoey lady is pretty bad. There is this new trend where actors want to be game-show hosts because it pays a lot for not that much work. The old ones who survived, Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek, weren't actors.

Might be a good post about how game show hosts have evolved.

Charles Bryan said...

I watched this out of, well, I don't know what out of. Inertia or laziness maybe. It was almost singly the weirdest hour of television that I've watched that didn't involve David Lynch. I was surprised at just how out of place ZD and MB seemed; well, surprised that anybody with any sense at ABC didn't leave it on a shelf. Repeats of anything would have been better.

Leighton said...

Would never watch this. The only reboot I've seen is "Match Game," mainly because the drunk celebrities are fun to watch. Most took the game seriously, but each episode had one panelist that felt that it was "cute" (it wasn't) to give obviously ridiculous answers. I realize that it was likely intentional (why?).

Of course, "Match Game" has had MANY incarnations.

I enjoy streaming vintage shows like "Password." You had some really hardcore celebrity panelists. Specifically, Elizabeth Montgomery. She didn't suffer fools gladly. God help you, if you were partnered with her, and gave a dumb answer. She responded with the most withering looks and eye rolls. Allen Ludden had such a soothing voice. I remember Lucy being another tough player.

In terms of current celebrities, Leah Remini and Yvette Nicole Brown play to win.

A "new" "Hollywood Squares"? Might watch. IF they didn't dumb it down. Granted, the original was not "Jeopardy," but still witty. And I was a teenager. Catskill humor doesn't really work for me these days.