TV & Showbiz

Nudity on Cable: TV’s Next Big Thing?

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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.

2 Comments

  1. That was the first thing that came to my mind when I heard about this new dating show: this is the next logical, inevitable step. In the eternal battle for viewers, each show attempts to win over its competition not through creative writing or an original concept, but by being more outrageous. Twenty years ago I might have mused that the next step might be having the naked contestants consist of celebrities, but I doubt that would work now, seeing as the people who are cast (yes, cast) in these shows _become_ celebrities, and besides, if you look at the individuals pegged as celebs these days, many of them would not be household names had there not been a “leaked” home porn video or two. It’s hardly outrageous to see them without clothes on.

    It’s all borrowed time. I remember how much I loved Law & Order before it jumped the shark and introduced all those “ripped from the headlines” episodes, each zanier than the last. Through deliberately “shocking” headlines and revolving-door casting, the show became less the gritty nigh-documentary of crime that I fell in love with. I think a similar outcome is looming here with these reality shows: soon there’ll be nowhere to go.

    At least I hope there isn’t. If you want to hurt your emotional stability, you can wander into the /watchpeopledie “subreddit” on Reddit, and witness countless videos of gory, perfectly real accident aftermaths, terrorism-induced beheadings, and more. Hell, there’s even a subreddit for real photos of female corpses considered “cute”. It turns my stomach to even think about it, but the point is this: these subreddits are quite popular. I may be among the most liberal guys you will come across, but even I can see this is one icy, oil-covered slope down a very nasty rabbit hole. Things we thought 20, 30 years ago that they could never air on TV? They’re being aired. If you think the disgusting stuff I referred to cannot ever make it to air, then you tell me where the doorstop is, because I don’t see it.

    As a side note, I have never understood people’s interest in those “survival” shows. It’s not a survival show if none of the contestants are ever killed. Having the option to pack your bags, leave the island, and book into a hotel to enjoy room service is not “failure to survive.” How anyone can take these shows seriously is beyond me. Yes, these people are true survivors indeed, being filmed by a camera crew with cold drinks in their hands and medical assistance a phone call away.

  2. How about a survival show, but the survivalist are naked?

    Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3007640/

    “Each week, a new pair of total strangers are faced with the ultimate survival challenge: survive for 21 days together with no clothes or supplies in some of the most dangerous environments in the world. In addition to the landscape itself working against the duo, the local wildlife stalks looks to prey on them as well. Of course, the biggest complication for any of the couples might end up being their own clashing egos.”

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.