- TV News -What Makes A Dating Show Great? Bold Face Liars
Forget finding true love or surviving in the wilderness, in the 2020s reality TV is all about deception. Exhibit A: the new Joe Millionaire reboot.
On Wednesday, Nov. 3, Fox announced the return of Joe Millionaire, a reality dating show that originally aired in 2003. Back then, the show was about one man, "Joe Millionaire" (aka Joe Marriott), a bachelor who pretended to be a millionaire, and the 20 or so women who competed for his heart. It was, essentially, a riff on The Bachelor, but with a twist, boldly asking the question: "What if we did The Bachelor, but the lead was a total fraud?" Mike Darnell, who ran the alternative programing over at Fox at the time, later told Variety, "It was proving a point that a lot of women are in it for the money. It was still the best twist we ever did."
Joe Millionaire's first season was a ratings hit, but the second season fizzled, and the show was eventually canceled. But, here we are, almost two decades later, and Joe Millionaire is rising from the dead, this time with a brand new twist on the twist! This time around, there will be two male leads: one who is actually a millionaire, and one who is not, and the women will have to figure out which is which, while also maybe falling in love. Or, as Fox puts it: "As love connections are made and each guy finds his perfect match, the women must ask themselves what is more important... love or money?"
My initial reaction to this news was "No." Pass. There is no world in which I need a show that aims to ridicule women as gold diggers while also tricking them into falling in love with a man who is lying about who he is. Then again, this Joe Millionaire reboot isn't really that bad, it's just reflective of the current state of reality TV dating shows.
There's always been a certain amount of deception in competition reality TV. Shows like The Circle, Big Brother, and Survivor, arguably the most successful reality TV show ever currently in Season 41, thrive on it. But dating reality TV shows are different, they're about selling love, not riches. The Bachelor has never offered cash prizes, though some shows in the franchise have had other forms of reward at the end (RIP Listen To Your Heart). But it feels like new dating shows are really all about cash.
Earlier this year I was absolutely giddy at the idea of HBO Max's FBOY Island, where three women looking for love were tasked with determining which men were FBOYs, and which were nice guys. And I fully laughed out loud at the viral clip of the British dating show Love Trap, in which a "love trap," or a contestant who is actually already in a relationship, falls through a hole in the floor if they're not chosen. Deception in dating reality shows can be, for lack of a better word, fun.
It also just feels more honest at this point. Why pretend that everyone who goes on reality TV isn't in it for the fame? In a world where only one Bachelor lead has actually married his final rose pick, it's not hard to see why fans would give up on the idea of "finding love" as an actual end goal for any reality show.
Even The Bachelor producers know this. That's why this season on The Bachelorette, Jamie's private conversation with a producer made it to air, or why Brendan and Pieper's discussion of Instagram followers aired on Bachelor in Paradise. These conversations make for great drama, but they also show how the Bachelor franchise is responding to an audience that is becoming more and more skeptical of the intentions of people on reality TV. It's a wink to the audience. "We know you know that people are here for the wrong reasons, and we're going to give you a front row seat to their deceptions."
Maybe this is the inevitable conclusion of reality TV dating. As shows get more popular and Instagram and social media creates opportunities for "Influencers" to build lucrative careers, there is no real way to get the audience to trust that cast members are looking for love. But tell us that they're looking for money? Now that's real.