Monday, April 16, 2012

Tough Love New Orleans: All the single ladies

Posted By on Mon, Apr 16, 2012 at 10:35 PM

Sunday night's television schedule had plenty to offer in terms of challenging entertainment, notably with Mad Men and the premiere of Lena Dunham's excellent, probably revolutionary, HBO series Girls (you can watch the pilot on YouTube). But over on VH1, there was the opposite end of the spectrum: the latest season of Tough Love — a mix of Millionaire Matchmaker, Bad Girls Club and the sales rack of a Rainbow store — which is set in New Orleans.

Unlike its New Orleans predecessor Bad Girls Club, a show with no detectable purpose other than to destroy so many hair extensions, Tough Love has an objective: dating guru Steve Ward, along with his mother JoAnne, aims to reform a group of women representing a variety of dating dysfunctions in a “relationship boot camp.” The show, like other dating-themed reality programs, hinges on the idea that women are more often the ones who need to change parts of themselves to be worthy of love (although VH1 also airs Tool Academy and The Pickup Artist, both about comically flawed men, so perhaps that evens things out).

The show’s contestants all represent the most repugnant stereotypes of women: there’s the gold digger, the overly made-up plastic surgery fanatic, the slutty one, the one who wants a baby real bad, the bitch and the prude. But even though the contestants are exploited for one-dimensional characterizations, I don’t feel too sorry for them: reality TV has emerged as a way for talentless people to achieve the notoriety of actors and other celebrities, and I’m sure most of these women have designs on fame (or at least getting paid to show up at a nightclub for a few hours) and consider televised humiliation a small price to pay.

Following the typical format for season premiers of residential-based reality shows, there was extra emphasis on checkin’ out the contestants’ new digs, which in this case is a house I've heard is on the corner of Esplanade and Chartres (the image on Google Street View seems to resemble the house on the show). The house itself is lovely, but it has been modified with a garish interior of bold pinks and reds, touristy regional artwork and front doors painted roughly the same color as those contentious Chateau Estate columns. If you need help imagining it, the contestant pictured below remarked the interiors looked like “if someone got in (her) brain and decorated this house.”

steph.jpg
Aside from a holistic foods chef who seems sorely out of place, the contestants are your typical reality TV characters. The one local of the bunch, a single mom who lives in Metairie, seemed the most sympathetic, although she wasn't featured much this episode.

The episode's main challenge involved a mixer aboard the Creole Queen riverboat, during which the women would give Mardi Gras beads to the guys they liked. The men, who included a spiky haired dude with a Chinese character neck tattoo, in turn would discuss their impressions of the contestants on video. Of course some of the gals got too wine drunk, and one outed the contestant who's 25-year-old virgin to everyone in earshot.


The episode ends with Ward singling out the most and least embarrassing of the woman in one of those semi-formal, end-of-the-show reality TV ceremonies (see also: The Bachelor rose-giving, the Flavor of Love necklace-clock bestowing, etc.). The contestant on the "hot seat" this episode was a compulsive liar who was the one who outed the virgin at the boat party. Her excuse? “Wine.” Hey, I get that.

Besides the beads, some French Quarter b-roll and Ward saying things like "New Orleans is a city that's all about having a good time," there wasn’t too much New Orleansy stuff, but a preview for the upcoming episodes shows the requisite Bourbon Street disasters.

If you can deal with how the show emphasizes the ways in which women are terrible at attracting quality partners, as well as Ward’s dating rules — which include such non-advice as “superficial is superlame”— interspersed throughout the show, the show succeeds in sating a trash TV craving (although it seems Basketball Wives would be more gratifying in that area). And there’s always the possibility of spotting your ex-boyfriend Mike, who has neck tattoos now, in the crowd of one of those mixers. It is a small city.

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