Entries in reality TV (2)


Not dating, just watching

I have a new obsession. It snuck up on me a few weeks ago and I can’t feed it fast enough.  I’m addicted to reality TV shows that are about dating and relationships.

It started last year with First Dates, a show about, wait for it, people on first dates. Obviously I was drawn to it due to my own experiences of meeting total strangers in the hope of finding a connection.  At last count I’ve been on 36 first dates.  Most were fun, a few hideous, but I was lucky and met some great guys.  Some got a second date, some didn’t.  Sometimes it was my idea to end it, sometimes theirs.  That’s okay.  I guess. 

Watching First Dates reminds me of the nervousness and initial excitement you get, not knowing whether the person you’re about to meet will be nice, an idiot or a total waste of your time.  You wonder if you will click. Will you even like each other?  What if he tries to kiss me?  Will this go anywhere or will I leave, with the sad realization that I’m still single … and more first dates await.  First Dates (the show) brings all that awkward horror to life and I can’t look away because I have lived and breathed that pain (and occasional pleasure) over and over.

My favourite relationship show right now is Married at First Sight – classically manipulated by producers to suck us all in.  MyGod, they’re doing a great job.   Not only did the panel of experts “marry” total strangers, but they’ve managed to create stories of a runaway bride, a text message cheating scandal and plied contestants full of alcohol at dinner parties to ensure they go feral and make each other cry or storm off.  I am both horrified and in love it.  Thankfully there are couples who have actually found love and overcome hurdles (along with their emotions and dirty laundry being aired on television).  They give me hope and show the rest of us how to do it. 

I don’t usually like reality TV but these shows provide an insight into what people see in each other – or are looking for in a partner.  Over and over again, contestants turn down people who are all the things they’re looking for, but their patterns and exes cloud their judgement, making them walk away from potentially perfect partners.  This is usually where I start yelling “You stupid idiot, he’s perfect for you” at the television.  If only someone had been able to do that for me in my dating life.

The other horrible thing to watch is when couples (or one of them) cling to the ‘relationship’ when it’s obvious they’re not a good match and have nothing in common.   With Married at First Sight, I’ve watched men be rude and almost verbally abusive to their partners (one used the word frigid), but still the women stay in an effort to ‘work things through’.  What’s wrong with us that we can’t see when someone is treating us badly and we put ourselves last to stick it out.  If only someone had been around to yell “He’s an asshole Tan, start running” in some of my relationships.  If only.  

Bride & Prejudice is another ‘shock’ reality show that makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with people. It's based on couples wanting to get married and their selfish family members boycotting them for everything from religious beliefs (anyone gay on the show), being too young (sure, the girl is a bit of an overemotional psycho but he loves her) and the poor woman who is being ostracized by her sister because she’s much older than her fiancé.  Grow up people, marriage is a gift and you should be thankful your kids have actually met someone who wants to be with them. 

SBS have a full on dating show called Undressed.  You guessed it, couples meet for the first time and then …. Undress each other.  Talk about awkward.  For me as much as them.  They sit on a king sized bed in a bright, soulless white TV studio while a huge screen tells them what to do next in giant screaming text.  “TALK ABOUT YOUR MOST PAINFUL CHILDHOOD MOMENT.” “KISS EACH OTHER.” “SHOW YOUR TATTOOS AND PIERCINGS”.  “TAKE EACH OTHERS’ CLOTHES OFF”.

This is when I wriggle around in my seat.  It’s not sexy.  It’s just uncomfortable and I want to turn the lights down so they don’t have to see each other and neither do I.  It’s like the world’s worst First Dates meets Dating Nude (a show I can’t bear to watch).  Even worse, at the end of their few minutes together (it’s speed dating too) they have to punch YES or NO into an ipad by the bed in response to whether or not they want to see the other person again.  Dating is hard enough without rejection on a giant screen with the person sitting next to you.  Maybe it is better to lie to someone’s face and say “Let’s catch up again” as you walk off, knowing full well that’s never going to happen.

For light relief and an insight into dating in other cultures check out China’s If You Are the One.  It’s the ultimate dating game show where men pitch themselves at 24 single women who have all the power – they can turn him down by switching off the light on their console after just one look.  Harsh.  The male contestants create a cheesy video about their lives while the women decide if he meets their criteria or not.  If successfully matched, the couple gets to enjoy an overseas holiday (giving the airline a cheery endorsement at the end of the show).  If not they leave alone.  Broken.  The show has 50 million viewers. That’s a public humiliation I would never put myself through.  Being single is pretty good from where I’m sitting  (and watching). 


Reality Bites 


Last night I hung out with famous people.  Except I didn’t know they were famous.  I had no idea who most of them were.  They were mainly reality TV stars and well, I’m a bit clueless about that genre of celebrity.

When I first arrived at the big TV station horse race eve party (another excuse for champagne) I found myself standing next to a cool looking guy … trendy beard, nice shirt, drinking a craft beer (all the hipsters are doing it).  We had one of those casual polite conversations you have with people you don’t know … Have you been to the races?   Are you going to the races?   How’s this crazy weather? 

We started talking about radio stations and how people often sing karaoke in their car. I asked if he liked to sing loudly in the car.


“Is it I will always love you, by Whitney? That’s a great karaoke song. People love belting that one out.”

Not really” he said.  Oh. Fair enough.

“So what brings you to this party?” I asked

I was a singer on The Voice”, he tells me.  “I’m singing here tonight.”

Ohgod. He’s been on TV. On a really popular reality show.  Oops. Can I fake it?

“You did well, didn’t you? Everyone was backing you to win.”  My head is racing, trying to remember any tiny snippet of information. Yes, got it. He was one of the finalists. 

“Oh, I was okay.  I didn’t really do much until the end.  I didn’t win, but then I didn’t want to.  I wanted to run my own race. Stay true to my own creativity and soul.”

So this guy did really well … and he’s a singer … and he’s releasing his own EP next year.  Oh it’s Dean!  The guy mentored by Nat Bass!  Good memory Tan.

Oh, hang on. No, that’s The X Factor.  Wrong show. Wrong TV network.

I still have no idea who this guy is.  I need to save myself from this.

I’m so sorry, I didn’t recognise you earlier.  I don’t have my glasses on.”

He nods and sips his craft beer.  He gives me nothing extra.  Can I ask questions?  I still don’t know who you are buddy.

As he and I both awkwardly scan the room, a work associate pops over and air kisses me.  Thank God.  We talk about the races.  And the weather. 

Mr Reality TV star excuses himself to go and warm up for his big gig. 

How fabulous is Jackson?” she gushes.    Oh. Jackson. Right. Yes. Fabulous.

A tall leggy blonde – pretty as a picture – joins our circle and asks our names.   She tells us hers is Maxine.  She looks like a classic PR girl, perfectly groomed, friendly and sociable.  I assume she works for one of the sponsors.

And where are you from Maxine?” I ask, kicking in the conversation.

“Oh, I was a contestant on The Block”, she tells me smiling, “and now my partner and I are going on a 1200km walk for charity.”

Another reality TV star.

My friend starts to chat to her, saying how great her wedding was (she and her partner actually got married on the show. On TV.)  Maxine tells us all about the wedding, what she’s been up to since and how lovely it was to meet us before she moves onto the next circle of people.

Very sweet, but I have no idea who she is.

Event PR Queen runs over and gives me a huge hug.  I warn her that there will be no photos of me tonight.  I’m tired and still recovering from the last horse race.

Have you met Chantelle?” she asks and introduces me to another tall beautiful blonde wearing an amazing head piece.  Surely she’s a milliner.  It is Cup Carnival after all.  

We shake hands and as I comment on the stunning crown in her hair she confirms that yes, she does run her own millinery business.  Ha, I knew it!

Chantelle was also the winner of The Block last year”, Event PR Queen tells me. 

Of course she was.  I’ve never seen her before in my life.

Chantelle’s partner joins us – the other part of the winning Block team – and we joke about all the people I have met, but had no idea who they were.  He laughs along and tells me he’s not offended.

Don’t feel bad”, I say, “I’m going to introduce myself to Gary Sweet and ask what he does for a living.”

As I turn around, Gary Sweet is actually standing next to me.  Event PR Queen grabs her trusty camera (it’s super glued to her hand 24 hours a day) and commands us all into a photo.  We thank Gary and just as he leaves, I ask him why he looks familiar to me. 

Not really. As if I'd do that. I know a star when I see one.