It's not often a show about modern "dating" brings to mind the quiz-show scandals of the 1950s, but watching Bravo's new reality series "Date My Ex," I found myself inexplicably flashing back to Ralph Fiennes as scholar turned disgraced contestant Charles Van Doren in "."
No doubt this was, in part, a subconscious attempt to remain awake, to relieve the utter tedium of "Date My Ex," in which Jo De La Rosa, formerly of "The Real Housewives of Orange County," engages in an upscale dating game with -- oh, what will they think of next?! -- the help of her ex-fiancé, Slade Smiley, also formerly of "Real Housewives."
Two less intriguing or more nakedly self-promoting individuals it would be difficult to find, which is, perhaps, where the "Quiz Show" connection comes in. As Van Doren descended into media corruption, Fiennes, his handsome face maddeningly bland, perfectly captured the birth of a new species -- TV people. Not actors, certainly not, or producers or writers or any of the other creative and business types involved in the industry. But rather those individuals who, for reasons having little to do with talent or even attractiveness, become television stars at the small price of their own souls. TV people. Like Jo and Slade.
The two are infamous even among the growing circuit of people who are building careers by moving from reality show to reality show. During their stint on "Real Housewives," the two not only split up, they also broke many of the network's rules, doing unauthorized press and media appearances with the unapologetic justification that the whole point of going on one of these shows was self-promotion. Now they're back in business, running their own show, which is so artificial and calculated it may be its very own genre -- a reality show that dispenses with the reality part.
The pitch: Jo has moved to Los Angeles, where she and Slade have split. But they're still "good friends." Indeed, Slade is even managing Jo's "music career." She, poor girl, has been "working" so hard that she hasn't had time to date, so over "lunch," her "friends" Katy and Myia "decide" to start "fixing her up" and that the best person to "help" is Slade.
Seriously, this scene alone should be preserved in a time capsule. With their blown-straight hair, Cleopatra eyes and lip gloss so thick you can't help wiping your own mouth occasionally while watching, these gals are the poster children for reality chic. "I feel like in L.A., anything is possible," Jo intones, widening her eyes to denote seriousness as we imagine some poorly paid screenwriter wringing his hands -- how ever did it come to this? "Anything you can dream you can do."
If only the rest of the show lived up to this inspiring standard. Instead, we're all off to Slade's bachelor pad where Myia attempts to explain the rules of the "adventure." Four guys will bunk with Slade while taking Jo on a series of dates. At the end of Round 1, Jo will eliminate all but one, who will then go on to compete with another group of men until we are down to a few finalists.
The guys who show up for the first round were apparently purchased directly from the Reality Dude catalog -- there's a personal trainer, a real estate agent, a talent agent and a nutrition salesman. The names don't really matter since the guys are there simply to provide the venues, a series of dream "dates" designed to woo the de-luscious Jo. To say it is ridiculous gives ridiculousness a bad rap. Ol' Jo may have a smokin' hot bod and an admirable willingness to part with her thong at a moment's notice, but a conversationalist she's not, and frankly, I think anyone seeing her without all that makeup might be in for a shock. So clearly no one's looking for a relationship, or even romance. These guys are in it to win it, whatever it is. Meanwhile, Slade is having second thoughts about the whole thing and looking pained. Will he undercut the competition to make himself look better? Will he and Jo wind up back together?
Who cares. Though it is mildly interesting to watch the reality monster consume its own tail for a few minutes, I'd frankly rather spend an hour blotting my lip gloss.
And I don't even wear lip gloss.
mary.mcnamara @latimes.comCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times