It’s not that the concept of nudity on cable is particularly new; it’s where that nudity is being seen.
So there’s a new dating show on cable TV called “Dating Naked.” Have you heard about this one? It airs on VH1, and the premise is disturbing:
The premise of the show is the dating relationship of two main characters who each meet two other prospective love interests on additional dates in an idyllic tropical setting.
Entertainment Weekly describes it this way:
Each close-ended episode will feature a man and a woman as they each date two different, naked suitors and each other. At the end of the episode, the two romance seekers decide whether or not to move forward with their prospective love matches.
The dates include “normal” activities like dining, swimming, and even horseback riding.
I haven’t been horseback riding for at least 30 years, but as I recall, it was barely comfortable enough to do while clothed. Just saying.
A trailer for the show (available at the EW link if you really want to see it) claims the show is a “radical dating experience” but allows contestants to date in the “most honest way possible.”
The naked truth?
If the trailer is any indication of what to expect on the actual show — I haven’t watched, so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong — viewers will see plenty of butts but any frontal nudity, including women’s breasts, are conveniently hidden behind digital blurring.
So the nude dating isn’t really nude except to the contestants. Viewers get to see the contestants’ reactions, but then have to rely on their imagination to fill in the blurred-out details.
The ‘Where do you go from here’ Problem
It’s not a surprise to me to see a dating show go the naked route. Nudity on cable is an easy way out when it comes to finding some new “hook” for a show.
But it reminds me of what I might call “Match Game Syndrome.”
Remember Match Game? Specifically, the 1970s edition with Gene Rayburn presiding over a panel of six zany celebrities, back when even B-list celebrities were popular and talented? Back then, there were still fairly strict standards when it came to decency on the air.
Producer Ira Skutch described the evolution of the show this way: towards the end of the 1960s run of the series, after it had already been canceled but still had a few weeks left on the air, its head writer, Dick DeBartolo, who would later go on to write for Mad Magazine, came up with an idea: what if they replaced the somewhat square questions (“Name an instrument in a jazz band.”) with silly questions: “Mary likes to put gravy on John’s _________.”
The show became a hit.
By the time the 1970s edition came around, all of the questions were “silly” questions with fill-in-the-blank questions that screamed double entendre.
Since the show left the air in 1982, there have been several attempts to resurrect that franchise. But all such attempts have suffered from the same problem: those innocent questions no longer work! Nowadays, the contestants and celebrities just go right ahead and give the “dirty” answer we only thought in the old days.
So nearly every answer involved a euphemism for some sort of body part or the name of a celebrity or politician who was either perceived as oversexed or had been involved in some sort of sex scandal. Or, in the case of former President Bush, has a name that sounded sexual.
The problem was the show was no longer amusing. The magic of the original was what wasn’t said.
When the “full monty” of the dirty answer became the norm, there was no envelope to be pushed.
What’s next after naked dating?
So when a reality show has to unfurl nudity, what’s left? There are already channels for porn, after all, and once you strip down (pardon the expression) a dating show to naked interaction, there’s not a great deal of options remaining.
Except to lose the digital blurs altogether. Which only takes you one step closer to porn.
One can only hope decency (if not prudishness) will win out and naked dating will quietly go away and be forgotten.
There has to be something more creative left to do, even on a reality show, than this.