There are two staples of reality television which make up the majority of this genre: competition shows and dating shows. While reality TV in all its forms tends to skew towards guilty pleasure the dating shows tend to be far guiltier than the competition shows. On the dating shows men and women are paraded out try and win the heart of a person they’ve only just met on national television. The contestants are clearly chosen on the basis of how entertainly they’ll be on screen rather than how good a match they might be for the poor soul who’s “just looking for love.” These shows have been around for years in many variations but so few lasting relationships seem to come out of them. Are the people who are on these shows damaging their chances of the relationship working? In a word: yes.
The majority of shows seem designed from the start to result in a failed relationship. Well perhaps that’s unfair, but most certainly put their concept and ratings well over any possible happiness of the participants. The most blatant ratings grab is to try to find love for a celebrity. VH1 is the reigning king of this tactic, kicking it all off with aging rapper Flavor Flav and his three seasons worth of The Flavor of Love. This not only resulted in the similar Rock of Love with Bret Michaels but in fact each of these shows spawned their own spin offs, taking the most outlandish women from those shows and giving them their own dating show. So far there’s been I Love New York (two seasons,) Daisy of Love, the canceled Megan Wants a Millionaire, and even two spin offs of the spin offs with Real Chance of Love and A Basement Affair. There has yet to be a single show of this nature that has produced a lasting relationship, and in fact most of them seem to have broken up by the time the reunion show airs.
But perhaps it’s unfair to judge the celebrity dating shows on the same plane as those featuring “normal people.” Let’s take perhaps the least gimmicky of the dating shows: The Bachelor and it’s spin-off The Bachelorette. Logically since these are the most straight forward in their premise, they don’t deal with celebrities or ridiculous stereotypes (cougars, the overweight, millionaires, little people, etc) then theoretically the participants on these shows should have the best shot at success. However reality yields some harsh results. Nearly every single “winning” couple has broken up within months of the show ending. Sure producers of these kinds of shows will still point to The Bachelorette season one and the still married couple Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter. There is that success story and all praise to them and their kids. However as more and more of these couples fail the more it looks like their success was a fluke and by no means a decent measure of the outcome of these shows.
The very premise of these shows seems to all but guarantee that the relationship will fail in the end. The best way for a relationship to last is if the couple fall in love during more or less normal circumstances. In other words people who fall during unusual circumstances (people who fall in love while on vacation somewhere, doctors who fall in love with patients, etc) often find that the relationship doesn’t work once the unusual circumstances end. A person may fall in love with their massage therapist during sessions only to find when they try for a normal dating relationship that it doesn’t work. If nothing else these dating shows are certainly not normal circumstances. So even if the leap of faith is taken that those participating are feeling genuine emotion and aren’t playing to the camera then the chances of their feelings staying the same when the show ends and real life starts again are very slim.
The damage these shows do isn’t limited to fledgeling relationships. Many couples who were married before going in front of the cameras have had their marriages dissolve. The Goslings, the Hogans, the Barkers, and Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson are just a few examples. While there were most likely plenty of reasons that these marriages ended besides the television shows it seems a fair statement that their problems being aired for millions easily made things worse. The impact of being on these kinds of shows and the strain they put on relationships can’t be underestimated.
Reality TV attracts desperate attention seekers, the kind of people who usually make poor significant others in the first place. Between that and the outlandish settings and circumstances it’s a wonder there have been ANY relationships born on reality TV that haven’t broken up. The whole debacle may continue to make for good television but it will never make for good relationships.