A woman tries to find her love match among a group of 25 suitors eager to win her heart.
Now, multiply the woman by three and the men by four.
That’s the equation of “3,” CBS’ latest entry in the reality dating show genre, almost a decade after “Cupid.” Airing its first regular Sunday episode July 29, following a special Thursday debut, the Americanization of an Israeli series makes housemates of three females … and offers them 100 males from which to choose those they deem best suited to each of them, aiming to find the one man with whom each can make a lasting connection.
April Francis operates no fewer than three Chicago businesses. Rachel Harley is a widowed mother of two who runs a nonprofit organization to benefit those with brain cancer, the illness that claimed her husband. Libby Lopez is a recent college graduate determined to maintain her strong religious convictions — and not to echo her parents’ divorce.
“I’ve been a pretty open book my entire life, so it doesn’t scare me to share my story with the world,” Lopez tells Zap2it. “I went through all the stages [of qualifying for ‘3’], and when it finally became real, it was kind of overwhelming at first. I’m definitely glad that I chose to do it, though.”
Being a single parent, not unlike Emily Maynard of the most recent season of ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” Harley has added considerations. “Two producers actually came to my house,” she reports, “and sat down with my mom and me and discussed all the details, because of my having two kids. I have a beautiful life, and I wanted to make sure this was the right fit for me.”
And Francis maintains her kinship with the other two women means as much to her in the “3” experience as her search for Mr. Right. “I’m absolutely thrilled that the three of us are in it together,” she says. “We lean on each other a lot and have some really good laughs, and we really help each other out.”
Eventually, though, each woman goes in her own direction with the men she’s picked … having dates in a variety of locations, akin to what a “Bachelorette” does.
The creative pedigree of “3” is intriguing, teaming a company well known for its success in making unscripted television — Magical Elves (“Top Chef,” “Project Runway”) — with someone who’s just getting into home-screen work: Chris Columbus, the director of such movies as “Home Alone” and the first two Harry Potter blockbusters.
“No one could be more surprised than I am,” Columbus admits with a laugh about his “3” involvement. “I got a call from [CBS Entertainment president] Nina Tassler, and I assumed getting into television would mean doing a dramatic, narrative series. I love television, because whether it’s ‘The Sopranos’ or ‘Breaking Bad’ or ‘Game of Thrones,’ you can tell a story on a massive canvas in terms of characters.”
“3” isn’t such a far cry, in Columbus’ view. “Nina said, ‘Would you take a look at this Israeli reality show that we have on DVD? I think your sensibility would fit right in.’ I said, ‘Nina, I’m not a big watcher of reality TV.’ She said, ‘Please just watch this,’ so I did. And I actually was hooked. From an emotional standpoint, I really thought this could be something different, so I said, ‘OK. I’ll come on board as an executive producer.’ “
That’s not a minor thing for Lopez in doing “3,” since she says, “I love who is involved. That was actually the major deciding factor for me. I’ve watched a lot of Magical Elves’ shows, and Chris Columbus obviously is a movie genius. I appreciate that he’s taking a chance on reality television.”
Lopez allows that she took another cue to do “3” from watching ABC’s “Bachelor”/”Bachelorette” franchise, but in a different way than might be expected. “I feel like this show does things much differently,” she notes. “There’s a beautiful teamwork side to this. It’s not one girl on her own; it’s three women who have so much different wisdom and knowledge to share in getting each other through this.”
And since the women are so different, the chances are slim — though not wholly impossible — that they’ll all zero in on the same man out of the 100 they’re presented with. “The nice thing,” Harley reflects, “is that in meeting all the guys, we definitely realize that all three of us are unique. We all are looking for someone individual for ourselves, and we all have hope of finding that.”
Francis claims “3” hasn’t made that tough. “All of the guys are genuine, nice guys,” she says. “They’re all open and available. It’s been a challenge for me to figure out what I really want, and what’s really going to work long-term.”
And friends and family have shown great support throughout the “3” process thus far, Francis adds. “It’s framed as a documentary, showing who we really are and what we’re like in the dating process. All the people we love want the best for us.”