Reality TV, that beautiful disaster, so often ridiculed for simply providing a beacon of hope to washed up talent and any other drug addicted, disorder afflicted or otherwise odd screwball by turning their relative misfortunes into some intense programming, scored big tonight. VH1, the network famously known as MTV’s mature older brother, which now spearheads this new age television, kicked off the much anticipated series finale of Tough Love Couples, and it delivered. Lucky for you, they love to replay episodes ad nauseam, giving ample opportunity to those who missed the magic.
There are several reasons why reality programming is met with such scorn, and all are rather shallow, I believe. Their approach is non-traditional. For example, "real" working actors are shunned in favor of those who have fallen from grace, which causes jealousy and resentment among professional thespians. It all stems from the fact that the business has found a way to entertain the masses without forking out tons of cash. With that said, let’s talk about the show.
For the most part, reality shows are fueled by situations, as opposed to star power. We are rarely blown away by an individual’s performance, as in sitcoms or crime shows, yet, every now and then, a shooting star is born. True to form, they burn hard and fast, before disappearing into the night. Tough Love‘s stellar contribution is named Steve Ward, a self-proclaimed relationship expert who is assisted by his own foremost authority on the sexuality of women, his mother — who, incidentally, might be called a M.I.L.F. in some less refined circles.
Sporting chubby cheeks and a million dollar smile, this wolf in sheep’s clothing stood proud on this night, and watched the results of his diabolical boot camp, which was set up to strengthen the relationships of six random couples by forcing them to survive his attempts to sabotage them. It's all for their own good, of course. [wink]
The stage was set in the style of a formal ceremony. Here, the participants had reached an ultimatum, after weeks of torment by Mr. Ward, in the form of challenges, ranging from a sex shop visit (designed to expose shortcomings in the bedroom) to a phony interrogation that was obviously staged well enough to squeeze out full confessions about fidelity, bringing destruction to one relationship and an early exit from camp. (I know, honesty is the best policy, but some things are better left unsaid… for the greater good.) So, under his sinister watch, each of the surviving couples had to decide if they were getting engaged or splitting up for good. [insert evil laugh]
It may all sound silly, but it does work on so many levels. Not only am I cheering for this charlatan, despite his back-stabbing and his awkward relationship with his partner and “sex guru,” Mommie Dearest, but even the production is handled very nicely. Overlooking the treachery of editing out of context, the cut and paste work is brilliantly executed. It’s enough to keep me on the edge of my seat, and, considering what we’re talking about, that’s quite a feat. There were a few moments where I felt they gave away too much, but I believe in the science of this business and, for that reason, can look past it.
Wrapping up, I would strongly recommend setting the trusty DVR to record the Tough Love series and race through the season, which will undoubtedly be shown in its entirety very soon. It’s entertaining and surprisingly therapeutic. Nothing boosts your standing, in the eye of a significant other, like sitting down and enjoying the plight of dysfunctional mates.
Which reminds me, I have an eye on my next dark horse, coming down the pike. It’s Dad Camp, an expose on deadbeat dads. Using the same model of sadistic humiliation, another television psychologist, Dr. Jeff, steps to the plate and I'll be sitting front row.