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COLUMN: Dating Game reboot marked by kiss of death

Reboots of vintage television shows all the rage, but as Wendy suggests in this week's 'Everything King', some programs should rest in peace
2021-07-27 Vintage TV
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Reboots of old TV shows seem to be all the rage these days.

I’m not sure if it’s a deep need for nostalgia and a simpler time or just that the producers of today have no original ideas. Likely a bit of both.

The summer replacement shows always leave a lot to be desired, but there is one reboot that has me both distressed and yet fascinated.

Have you checked out The Celebrity Dating Game? I desperately wanted to like it because one of the hosts is Michael Bolton and I love him.

The main host is Zooey Deschanel and while she is perky and pretty, she is a prime example that not everyone is cut out to host a show. She looks like a deer in headlights reading the teleprompter. The pairing seems awkward.

If you remember the original Dating Game, which aired in 1965, it was a very hip program hosted by Jim Lange. There were a few other remakes of the series through the years.

The bachelors and bachelorettes (the first time I’d ever heard that term) asked questions of the unseen contestants who sat behind a screen. The questioner had to base his/her choice on just the answers and tone of voice.

In this new incarnation, they have tried to copy the original set, which I suppose looks vintage. It's supposed to have a groovy, flower-power vibe.

I don’t know if Zooey chooses her own wardrobe, but if so, she needs some style assistance from her boyfriend — Jonathan Scott of Property Brothers. Actually, he should revamp the set, too.

They have Michael sitting off to the side in a chair looking completely disinterested and robotic. Not until they use a cattle prod halfway through each show does he come to life to sing. He does one song per program, which is a parody of a classic song rewritten with clues about who the mystery celebrity is.

He still sings great, but now his face doesn’t move. Like, not at all.

The banter between the pair is also painful to watch. I don’t even think a laugh track would help.

In the original show, we had Farrah Fawcett, Tom Selleck and Steve Martin, all before they were household names. 

This time around, we have Bachelor franchise cast-offs, male models, former sports stars and a couple of D-list stars. Even when the big reveal happens, it's as if the contestants have no idea who the celebrity is!

There are several reasons why it can never work today.

Back in the day, it was sweet. It was quaint. It was innocent. If the questions were phrased in a certain way, it made the audience blush. There was innuendo.

That just doesn’t work anymore. Everything is too blatant.

Take a couple of sample questions:

If I were a banana, explain in detail how you would peel me?

What is your best body part and why?

In the '70s, that would be so risqué and cause some to blush three shades of red. Now, it just comes off as tacky.

Of course, the contestants are all stunning and the males are all handsome, so that hasn’t changed from the original. They do now include LGBTQ contestants, however.

At the end, the chosen one goes off for a date, which we never see or hear about.

Apparently, that’s because there is no date. According to the TV execs, that would be too problematic and potentially dangerous.  So, I guess the star could take them to dinner, but it's not part of the contract.

At the end, they give the old giant air kiss to the screen, but they don’t have it synchronized, so it just looks awkward and dumb.

Michael never leaves his chair to participate. He rarely smiles, and I don’t blame him.

But, here’s the crazy thing. I tune in every Monday night. I can’t stop watching. It's like a train wreck.

Here’s the other shock. It's number one in the summer ratings!

I am guessing that’s because there is nothing else to watch on a Monday night at 10 p.m.

And it might actually be renewed.

Hey, I love vintage television shows, but some should just be left on a shelf living forever in our memories and never given new life.

This one deserves the giant kiss of death!