Remember Perfect Match? That cheerful game show of the eighties featured single Australians competing to win a romantic getaway with someone they’d never met, with the help of Greg Evans and a robot. After they had the romantic getaway, they would come back on the show and reveal whether they’d hit it off or loathed each other. It was lots of good-natured fun.
Imagine if, in 2019, they remade Perfect Match, but with a twist: it’s completely insane. Such is the premise behind Channel Seven’s new reality venture, The Proposal. In this show, male or female singles compete to win the favour of the “mystery suitor”. One by one they will be eliminated until there is one winner, to whom the mystery suitor will propose. Not propose a weekend on Dunk Island: propose marriage.
That’s right, it’s another entry in the increasingly crowded, “People who want to marry complete strangers” genre, and one can’t help but think that the existence of this genre says something about us as a society, or even as a species.
Reality TV has always been trashy, especially when it comes to dating games. But a trashy show about people looking to get off with each other is, if not edifying, at least easy to understand: who doesn’t want to watch attractive people trying to get laid? But seeing two people who’ve never met pledging lifelong commitment? Where’s the appeal there? At best it induces a vague feeling of queasiness: at worst it convinces you that love is dead and human relationships were a bad idea from the outset.
Apparently, in The Proposal, as well as a “first impressions” round, and a “romantic questions” round, the singles will also “bare their souls in a beachwear round”. To which perhaps the only reasonable response is a wordless gape. “Bare their souls in a beachwear round”? If the whole show was just ogling people in beachwear, it would make a million times more sense, but how did our standards slip so far that we’ll accept as entertainment a parade of thirsty cretins in Speedos hoping their abs are sculpted enough to get them engaged within 45 minutes?
Married At First Sight had seemed like the bottom of the barrel: a show in which people, after not actually getting married at first sight, abused each other for several months in front of the entire nation, which was apparently transfixed by the revelation that hooking up with a stranger doesn’t always end well. But with The Proposal we’ve dropped a couple of notches further, I reckon. If, as a people, we can breathe in the fetid stench of desperation and sadness steaming off the beachwear-clad bodies of those who voluntarily place themselves in the public eye to declare themselves so incapable of sustaining a relationship that public humiliation in search of approval of an equally dysfunctional desperado about whom they know nothing whatsoever, and cry, “Mmm…smells good”…then maybe the warnings of the imminent collapse of civilisation is actually the good news story of the year.