ABC scored big time when the network decided to bring different iconic game shows back to life during the summer months instead of airing reruns. Even The Gong Show, which lasted two seasons, drew in a crowd. But it’s the latest re-introduction of The Dating Game that might be confusing to some watchers.
Hosted by Jim Lange, the original Dating Game was the brainchild of Chuck Barris (who also created The Gong Show) and was a ABC daytime TV staple beginning on December 20, 1965. An evening version of the show followed the year after. The series ran through 1973 and was revived twice for syndication from 1978-1980 and 1996-1999. Now, the show was been revived once again for primetime audiences and while the original version of the show featured TV stars occasionally, they are the norm for The Celebrity Dating Game.
The new show mostly follows the format of the old show. The set looks similar, there are still three bachelors or bachelorettes hoping to make a love connection and a guest separated by a wall asking the three simple questions to help get a better idea of who they would like to go out with. Gone is the iconic theme music (a lot by Herb Albert) which is a bad idea since it was just as much a part of the show. Not that many would notice. Most of the people on the stage weren’t even around when the first show aired.
This version is hosted by Zooey Deschanel and (sort of by) Michael Bolton of all people. Deschanel is adorkable. Bolton is a dud. He pretty much stays in his corner sitting next to a piano and throws out a “joke” every now and then. Oh, and he sings a song that will give clues to the three contestants about who the mystery celebrity is. For last night’s pilot episode (which actually features two half-hour rounds) the celebrities were Hannah Brown (the former “Bachelorette” from that other ABC series) and Nicole Byer (host of Netflix’s Nailed It and the new Wipeout on TBS).
Most of the show follows the original format with three rounds of questions before the guest star chooses between bacherlor number one, two or three. As with the original, the contestants were nervous, awkward and said things they shouldn’t have. For the very first question, when Brown asked bachelor #1 what they would do on their first date, he impulsively said “arts and crafts” and soon regretted in as Bachelor #2 repeated the phrase numerous times throughout the show. When Byer asked what love feel like he said something worse. A lot worse. Nothing sexual, just gross. Sure, there were some eunedo, that’s to be expected, but it was surprisingly pretty tame. However, that might have been a fluke.
There was little banter between Deschanel and Bolton and that was for the best. In between rounds two and three, he sang a short parady song about the guest star which didn’t add anything to the show. Fortunately, he can still sing.
Each half hour felt a lot longer than the original show. After watching the show last night, I watched an episode of the original show on YouTube that featured Steve Martin before he was famous. It ran less than 15 minutes with only one round of questions and felt about right for such a silly show. However, during the reveal on the older show, Martin and his new date found out that they were going to travel halfway around the world for their date. On last night’s show, there is no mention of it. In fact, it turns out that each couple are not required to go on an actual date at all. So, what is the point of this show? Actually, even filming a dinner date of the celebrity couple would be fun to watch. In fact, it would elevate the show.
So, is The Celebrity Dating Game worth watching? Well, it’s not terrible, but there isn’t much there. The whole question-and-answer thing gets old pretty quick and overall, it’s just not that entertaining. This show should focus on a real “everyday” person getting the chance to date a real celebrity or be over-the-top or be hilarious, but unfortunately, it isn’t any of those things. It was fun to watch once for nostalgic reasons, but after that viewing, I think I’m good.
The Celebrity Dating Game airs on Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC. If you missed it, you can watch the first episode for repeat performance this Friday, June 16 at 9 pm. and see for yourself.
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.