Sunday, May 28, 2017

Pilot Review: Love Connection

Love Connection (Thursdays at 9:00 on Fox)

I have vague recollections of the original Love Connection, which ran for over 2,000 episodes in syndication over more than a decade. I think it was on around the same time as Supermarket Sweep, so as a kid I would catch bits here and there. From what I can recall, Fox's reboot stays true to the format, for better or worse, while modernizing it just enough that you don't feel like you're watching a rerun from the mid-90s.

To start, the format of Love Connection has never really been a winner. It's a dating show where you don't actually get to see people go on dates; you just get to see them talk about it. You would think that for a 2017 iteration, at a time when people are documenting every single inconsequential moment of their lives via social media and phone cameras, Fox would have the contestants film their dates. I can see why it would be awkward to have a film crew along for the date, but we all have devices capable of capturing moments without being obtrusive in our pockets and purses. The daters do occasionally film selfie videos of their reactions immediately following the date, but it's just not the same. For a show called Love Connection, the audience never actually gets to see that connection. Weird.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. For those unfamiliar with the premise, Love Connection is a hybrid game show and dating show, this time hosted by former Bravo exec and Watch What Happens Live! host Andy Cohen. Andy presents a contestant looking for love, who then goes on three dates with people chosen by the production based on their preferences (this is a change from the original). The audience votes on who they think is the best match for the contestant. After going on the dates, the three daters appear on a giant screen and describe what they did with the contestant and how the dates went. (They also now score each other based on first impression and looks, which is both really gross and very necessary for a show in which people try to find love after only one date.) The contestant then chooses one person to go on a second date with; if it's the same person the audience previously voted for, the contestant wins $10,000. If it's someone different, the contestant chooses either a second date with the dater they want, or a second date with the audience vote and $10,000.

It's a bit overly complicated for such a simple conceit, but Fox has done a bang-up job in selecting daters and contestants so far. They are entertaining people who serve up exactly the kind of alternating adorableness and obnoxiousness that exists in the real dating world. And holding it all together is Andy Cohen, who could not be more perfectly cast as the host here. Known for his probing questions on his own late-night show (he once asked Shaquille O'Neal how big his dick is) and producing guilty pleasure fodder like The Real Housewives, he brings the perfect mix of charm and fun to the show, immediately making the contestants and the audience feel like they're chatting with a gossipy friend. It also makes the concept of talking about the date rather than showing it much more palatable. Also more palatable is the wide array of daters and contestants appearing this summer. In the first episode alone, we've already seen an interracial couple dating, and future installments promise dates from contestants of all ethnic, sexual, and age-related backgrounds.

This is never going to be important, appointment TV. It's airing over the summer for a reason. However, it's exactly the kind of thing you want to watch during the summer. You don't have to commit to every episode, but you also don't have to feel guilty about loving Love Connection.

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