Though delightful to us terminally single folk, the depressing television dating-game genre has gotten unsightly over the years. From its halcyon days of The Dating Game (on which mustached gentlemen asked quaint questions of shy contestants, like, “What would you consider to be the perfect date?”) to today's Elimi-Date and MTV's Next (on which not-so-shy women give each other awkward Sapphic tongue baths to please their alpha douche-bag suitors), the attempt to capture and exploit the courting process on video has been both amusing and discouraging, with an underlying waft of bullshit. San Francisco-based online video site GoFish (the RC Cola to YouTube's Coke) adds another dimension to this theme with its oddly titled America's Dream Date. I say “odd” because the Web-only show seems less like two people trying to find soul mates and more like auditions to become the next Internet phenomenon.
Although typically composed of young and attractive people, ADD allows anyone to upload an audition video, which is then judged by other viewers in a Hot or Not-ish contest, earning a rating from one to 10. The male and female with the highest score (to be announced on Sept. 30) win a trip together to Paris, where they'll hopefully fall madly in love, marry, and poop out babies.
Behind this cloying mask d'amour is a flimsy attempt to find the next Internet meme — that is, the thing everyone e-mails to everyone else and blogs about for weeks. It's a clever try on GoFish's part, but thus far the talent seems, as Simon Cowell might say, affected — to the point that GoFish may even be setting the stage for another debate à la Lonelygirl15 or Emogirl (two YouTube minicelebrities whose popularity stems from their hotly disputed authenticity).
An example: More than 850,000 people have tuned in to see singles like Erika Rose, described as “goofy but cute” simply because she's a stunning blonde sporting clunky eyeglasses, do a self-consciously bad impression of Chris Farley's Matt Foley character from Saturday Night Live. She makes American Idol finalist and national blight Kellie Pickler seem like an organic creation and not the Fox-produced product she really is. Then there's the male front-runner, Anthony James from Long Island, who promises to “walk around in an Elvis wig” if he gets your vote. Hilarity.
GoFish's CEO, Michael Downing, admits that ADD is, in fact, a vehicle to help “people [get] discovered for their skills” and hone a personality in front of the camera. The end goal, he explains, is to use any breakthrough contestants to create commercials for the site's sponsors, or maybe even a solo show on the site.
Sadly, I have yet to find any seemingly earnest or lonely contestants — only people with “mad yo-yo skillz” or perfect bone structure. The lovelorn, it seems, just aren't fit for a dream date (or Internet stardom). But if a video of someone, say, passed out on his bed next to a half-empty bottle of vodka and a couple of cats, while the Big Brother 7 live feeds play softly in the background, can capture the attention of a nation, then I would jump at the chance to shill energy drinks, Axe deodorant spray, or win-a-free-iPod contests.