Tonight, 'Dating in the Dark' attempted to answer the age old question : what's more important, looks or personality?
From the offset, I am quite grateful to not be staring at green night vision, where people have creepy glowing eyes. Instead, it just looks black and white, sort of reversed, as we meet our first 6 contestants. They all get to meet each other for a quick chat, before they each pick one person they want to meet with one on one. This portion of the show generates some of the best moments I have ever seen or heard on reality tv. Like when Leni points across the table in the dark room as asks "What's your name?" Or, there was this exchange;
Leni: What do you do?
Stephen: I'm an SAT tutor.
Leni: OH! So you know about words!
Stephen:….I use them.
Afterwards, Christina moans about how without their vision they are forced to make judgements about each other based solely on what they are saying. OHMIGOD! That's crazytalk! But things get crazier when they are all asked to swap shirts – so the other sex can see- and smell – their fashion sense. Or scents. Whichever. SInce we can see all these people, we can see how incredibly good looking Allister is, yet when it comes to the first round of dating choices, he's left in the cold while both Christina and Melanie chose Stephen.
It seems that all the contestants also completed a personality profile (or logged on to e-harmony) and they have been given a compatibility match. Having nothing else to go off of, they all gravitate towards those generated matches. Well, Stephen obsesses about pheromones for a bit, but then he falls in line. So, we end up with Leni paired with Stephen, Christina paired with Seth and Melanie paired with Allister.
They go through some dates, but it is hard to tell how many or how long they last. I guess ABC found out that couples sitting in the dark talking is actually a little dull to watch. I am sort of intrigued by the fact that the dark room contains plants and paintings on the walls, however. With no distractions, Christina and Seth make out right away, while Leni makes Stephen wait and Allister tells Melanie about his difficult childhood. Melanie gives Allister a ring, that was part of a wedding ceremony of importance to her family – something Allister never had – and he seems genuinely touched.
Since no reality dating show is complete without a couple of attempts at crushing a person's self-esteem, each individual is sat down with an artist and told to describe what they think their partner looks like. Leni thinks Stephen looks like Dolph Lundgren and Seth may or may not be a hobbit while Allister may or may not actually be a girl. Part two of the humiliation round takes each couple and puts them back in the dark room – lifting lights on one and then the other. This is so they each get a glimpse of the other, while not getting to see the reactions of the other. Then they each go back to gossip to the rest of their group.
Rounding out the humiliation trifecta, each person gets to chose whether they want to hang out with their match, or leave them far behind. Stephen agrees to meet with Leni, and is so confident he rearranges the plants on the porch so he can hide behind them and scare her. They let him sweat it out there long enough to realize she might not show and he will look like a giant tool hiding behind a potted palm for her – but show up she does. Melanie, on the other hand, does not show up for Seth. Adding insult to injury, the porch he is waiting for her own gives him a clear view of her skulking out of the house by herself. As he says "That's messed up".
While he waxes depressive about how much it sucks to have a good rapport with someone and then be judged based solely on appearance, we see Melanie sobbing about how she is not the type of person to judge someone based solely on their appearance. Except that she just did and she's just as shallow as she always feared. Lastly, Melanie waits for Allister – and I start to wonder what criteria they used to determine who was going to wait for whom. As Melanie worries that a guy as good looking as Allister won't want anything to do with her, he declares that it is a "me, not you" thing, blaming the failure of past relationships on his personality. All the same, he does show up and they leave together.
This show is rife with humor and humiliation, so I am conflicted about it. It is everything that is shallow and self centered and horrible about dating rolled into one show, such as Stephen calling "DIBS!" on Leni once the guys are alone or Christina declaring "I have no idea who I just kissed. I hope that when all is revealed I don't have a guy that looks like Shrek!" And yet, there are hysterical moments such as Seth asking "Is it weird if I touch you? What is that? Oh, your shoulder…" What did you think of it?