OWN’s Ready To Love's Fatal Flaw: Not Ready For Love
Couples who are ready to love need an exit strategy
Since the beginning of time, married people have sought mates for single people. That’s what married people do. Network television has long exploited this desire to see individuals become couples by creating match-making TV shows.
The Dating Game was an early favorite. The setup was fun. One person sat in the chair and asked questions of three persons of the opposite gender who sat on stools behind a wall. After a flurry of questions, the questioner selected the person they felt most suitable for them. The show had quirky terminology, which included bachelor or bachelorette number one, two, three.
The original program, produced by legendary Chuck Barris, lasted eight seasons. The show went through several iterations over the years. One of my favorite variations on the theme was Love Connection, which raised the risqué quotient and got rid of the blind date component.
Other dating programs included: The Bachelor, and The Bachelorette, which have become huge franchises. On the extreme side of programming, who can forget The Flavor of Love, which featured Flava Flav as the object of love, and its offspring, I Love New York, which showcased Tiffany Pollard, a finalist on Flavor of Love.
Enter Ready to Love, an Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) production hosted by Thomas Miles. The program aims to couple 30- through 50-something African American individuals who live in large cities that reportedly have a “dating problem.”
In its fifth season, the program seems to enjoy network support and audience interest in helping African American singles find love.
The basic premise is to narrow down to couples who are “ready for love” through elimination. Nothing new here. After four seasons, social media cannot confirm any lasting love or marriage amongst the earlier contestants. Each week, the contestants determine who is “not ready for love.”
The show has a fundamental flaw, which all but guarantees those who do find suitable partner will not couple, unless they are the last people standing.
The fatal flaw is that individuals who find a suitable mate at any stage before the season’s end, the show offers no exit strategy for them to leave the program. The rules of engagement force them to continue dating other individuals and “find quality” connections.
Here’s an example:
During the current season, there is a couple that consists of Clifton, 44, and Joi, 41. Viewers watch them connect on the very first episode while others around them frolicked and seek out conversation. Clifton and Joi noticeably enjoy one another and exhibit the chemistry singles hope for on the first date.
They are physically attracted to each other, immediately discover shared interests, and most importantly, display compatibility for one another by their sense of humor.
According to relationship experts, Drs. John and Julie Gottman of the Love Lab in Seattle, maintaining a sense of humor about individual differences is a key predictor of a couple’s longevity.
As the season has progressed, Clifton and Joi have reconnected on various episodes in a similar fashion. In the last episode, Joi publicly identified Clifton as her best connection by passionately kissing him in front of a crowd. They are prime candidates for leaving the show early to demonstrate they are ready to love.
However, they must continue dating as the season progresses.
In essence, the show penalizes participants for having integrity. Say Joi and Clifton mutually decide to be exclusive, the rules of engagement prevent them from acting on their decision. Unless they are voted off—declared “not ready for love” by the others—they are forced to break their own promises to each other to couple up.
The other fatal flaw is the lack of a prize for remaining on the program. While the show appears to provide contestants nice clothes, good food and drink, and stays at luxury resorts, there is no true incentive beyond coupling for individuals to remain on the program. And since few individuals persist until the end, the only apparent incentive is short-term TV fame. Of the seasons so far, the highest number of couples to emerge at the end has been two.
Given that each season begins with at least 14 people, or seven ready-made couples, reducing the lot down to only two couples seems drastic and borderline failure. Although, it is sometimes interesting to watch.
The producers have not figured out how to maximize the number of couples ready for love. Instead, they force elimination as a means of increasing and capturing viewership. The show is a good laboratory for understanding why many couples fail.
Research shows individuals who remain single past their 40s are often too picky or emotionally unavailable for coupling.
Few individuals trust their intuition and lock into the one person they feel attraction for. Most singles cannot resist the temptation to keep looking for their perfect match no matter how compatible they are with the current partner.
On Ready To Love, when a person finds a match and keeps that person as their “#1,” they necessarily stop making connections with other persons. However, settling down sends a signal to the other contestants the settled person is “isolated,” not open, or not willing to “peel back the layers.”
The Ready To Love producers, of course, seek TV ratings and commercial success. Their mission to tackle the so-called “dating problem” is a by-product of generating revenue for OWN. We understand and accept that premise.
However, if for a moment, the producers make finding love a priority, they should acknowledge the program’s flaws and create a fix. Consider rewarding individuals who couple early in the season by releasing them from the program. Or simply encourage those who couple early to exchange information and be prepared to get booted off as a pair.
The show recently introduced a new means to replace cast members as the season progresses: introducing “blind dates” or new contestants into the existing cast. Keeping a few potential cast members on-call or on standby in case of early love connections form allows those ready to love to leave the cast and make their newfound connection real.
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