For love or fame

Andrew Scharf and Andrew Scharf

“Can true love survive a 50 million dollar lie?” That is the question that only the Fox network is bold enough to explore. I am surprised more networks haven’t tackled this hard pressing issue. However, there is a much bigger question that should be answered first. Can true love actually occur through reality television?

You would think that with the influx of so many dating shows including “Joe Millionaire”, “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” “Star Dates,”and “A Dating Story,” that television producers have become the ultimate matchmakers. Searching through the latest entertainment “news,” the answer is simply no. This should not come as a surprise to anyone reading this. After the cameras stop rolling and the allure of 15 minutes of fame have passed, the matches made in network heaven are doomed.

ABC’s “The Bachelor” is proof that reality dating shows do not result in the perfect couple. This past week it was reported that Aaron Buerge and Helene Eksterowicz have called off their relationship. To most of the general public and myself this meant absolutely nothing. However, Aaron was the “bachelor” in the second season of that show and Helene was his chosen love.

Aaron had even proposed to her during the season finale. It appeared that true love had beaten the odds for a few months at least. But instead the pair followed the same path as the other reality television couples. The first season’s bachelor Alex Michel has also broken ties with the women he chose at the end of the show.

I would like to say that the news came as a shock and I was heartbroken for the couples. Having never heard of them until now I can’t say that statement is true. Finding out that Aaron and Helene will discuss their relationship problems on an upcoming ABC special, “The Bachelor: Aaron and Helen Tell All,” proved to me how ridiculous the concept of dating shows are. The shows are not about building a personal relationship with another human being, it’s about manipulating an audience into believing the moments are real and fairy tales exist. These shows use the loneliness of people and exploit it into ratings. Participants in reality dating shows are only expressing one kind of love, the love of the camera.

The show “Star Dates” on the E! channel presents dates with people we already know have a love for the camera: washed-up celebrities. A recent episode with Gary Coleman wasn’t so much a date but an opportunity for Coleman to ask for work. Watching this show I didn’t know who to pity more-the young women willing to go on the date or the washed up celebrity in search of love or better yet a resurrected career. Unable to decide whom to pity I decided to pity myself for watching the show, and when they trumped out Screech with two good looking women I decided to cry myself to sleep.

The appeal of instant fame has to be in the back of many of the contestants’ minds. Participants may be going on the show because they are lonely, but mostly because they have ulterior motives. “A Dating Story” seems to be the closest thing to a real date on television. A mutual friend brings two people together that they think would be perfect for each other. Cameras follow along on the date and get reactions afterwards. This type of show is almost acceptable but made me wonder, “why is this on the Learning Channel?” It just seems odd to me that two people are willing to share what’s supposed to be a personal experience with millions of nosy people. The idea of a camera crew filming the average adult would instill fear into their heart. I personally would not want to subject a television audience to the many awkward and uncomfortable moments that accompany me on a date.

Reading through the application processes for “The Bachelor” is proof of the lack of reality in reality dating programs. Personality questions line the application. It would be very easy for producers to bring people with similar personalities together mixed with a few incompatible people just for kicks. With this information producers are willing to program the relationship however they feel. They can play against the strengths and weaknesses of the two people. Even if the reality couple survive past the show and generally don’t have ulterior motives, the pressure of keeping the relationship together has to be immense. All the public eyes watching and hoping they survive as well as the public cynics like myself out to see them fail miserably. The odds against true love on reality television are too strong not to bet against.

Now back to the 50 million dollar lie. Chances are “Joe Millionaire” has already become a millionaire through his instant fame. If the woman he chose was looking for a person with money to fall in love with, she may not be out of luck just yet. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.