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‘Ready For Love’: Why It’s Smarter Than ‘The Bachelor’

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In the weeks leading up to last night’s premier, it was hard to tell from the slick packaging and nonstop TV ads how “Ready For Love” would work. We know Eva Longoria is behind it, Bill Rancic and Guiliana Rancic are hosting it, and some good looking (naturally) single people are on it, trying to find their soul mates with the help and hindrance of three judges, all of whom are professional matchmakers.

All in all, it looked like one part “The Bachelor,” one part “The Voice,” and one part “The Dating Game.” Over the top? Of course. Entertaining? Absolutely.

After the premiere, we were hooked for a single reason: the show pierces the formulaic monotone of “The Bachelor” to offer something far smarter (and more fun to watch). Here’s why:

The Men

The Big Single Dude of the season premier was Tim Lopez, one of three bachelors the show will follow (the other two, Ben Patton and Ernesto Arguillo will make their debut next week). If Tim looks familiar to you, it’s because he’s familiar to a lot of people – he’s an actual rock star, the singer and lead guitarist for the Plain White T’s. We learn quickly rock star Tim is also divorced, and he’s come to “Ready For Love” in search of a future Mrs. Rock Star with whom he can one day have a family that also rocks.

Interesting Tim Fact: He can count the number of women he’s been with using his fingers. He never says how many times he will use his fingers, but I’m going to assume this is code for fewer than 10. That’s impressive, for a guy who’s been on MTV.

Why He’s Better Than “The Bachelor”: Unlike the nonstop parade of personality-devoid drones that find their way onto “The Bachelor,” Tim and his brethren are the choicest of options: real catches. He’s hot, he’s talented, he’s accomplished, and for heaven’s sake, he’s a rock star.

The Matchmakers

As “Ready For Love” so cleverly puts it, why have casting agents decide who stays and goes, when you can have actual matchmakers? Take three ego-heavy camera-ready “relationship professionals,” have them pick 4 women for a single guy, and then put each team in the arena while the nobles watch on the sidelines. Our matchmakers this go-round are:

Tracy McMillan: Noted author, who will tell you her article, “Why You’re Not Married Yet” is the most read article in the history of The Huffington Post. If you ask her “Why aren’t I married?” she may tell you, “Because you’re a bitch.”

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Amber Kelleher-Andrews: The internationally renowned matchmaker we’d never heard of before tonight. Apparently her Kelleher International matchmaking firm is a big deal, with locations all over the world.

Matthew Hussey: This “life coach and life strategist” just published a book entitled, Get The Guy. He’s also the show’s lone male judge, so of course, he’s the one who really (really!) knows what guys want. Ladies, listen up!

It seems we’re supposed to get behind a particular matchmaker, and root for their group over the others, but the matchmakers don’t seem to be competitive with one another. Hopefully that plays out over the span of the season, because it would make it what is an already interesting concept, more interesting.

Why They’re Better Than “The Bachelor”: Rather than plopping a pool of dishwater-dull women (with one crazy thrown in) down in a house and then having producers pull strings behind the scenes, these matchmakers make choices out in the open, offering critiques and tips based on watching each of the women interact with Tim. Some of their advice is useful (don’t bring up insecurities on the first date, like saying “Oh I’m an old maid”) and some belongs in a yellowing back issue of Cosmo (“never ever say the word f-a-r-t on a date”).

The Format

Never a dull moment! There’s no watching loads of awkward first dates and infighting among contestants (we get that aplenty with a certain other dating show). Things start off with an homage to the classic show, “The Dating Game.” Tim stands on one side of a wall, out of sight of the women who have left behind their lives for a chance to be with him. From the sound of their voices and brief seconds of personality they put on display, Tim has to choose which three he wants to keep, and which one must go.

NOTE: the introduction and elimination of the women on this show has been taken to a new level of grandstanding. Each woman is transported from underneath the stage in a glass capsule. Picture The Hunger Games, but more terrifying. We all know the game being played here, but the way these women are delivered and rejected like disposable Barbies is thick with futuristic schmaltz.

With the group of 12 now down to nine, Tim is tasked with going on a date with all of them AT THE SAME TIME. Thank goodness he has a band to cut the awkwardness! Cue an impromptu Plain White T’s performance. But first, each group has to be coached up by the matchmakers in preparation for the date. Here’s a quick rundown of their coaching strategies.

Team Tim:

“Get into the emotion of it, not the logic.”

I can’t say I agree with what Tim is saying here. Guys don’t want a woman to appeal to our emotional selves right away. Turn us on, amuse us, and if you do both those things well, maybe you will bring out of us something that resembles emotion.

Team Amber:

“I want to talk about building our brand.”

Makeup, clothes, the vocabulary each of these women will use sends a message, according to Amber. So these ladies must work on all of these things, fine tune them, so as to make the brand irresistible to Tim. Hmmm – a bit marketing-speak, but we’ll play along.

Team Tracy:

“Be in the spirit of play.”

Tracy tells her charges to be in the moment. She’s the lone coach who is actually trying to make the girls enjoy the date, instead of making them feel like they have a duty to sweep Tim off his feet. Of all the advice given during this portion of the show, Tracy’s is by far our favorite.

Date Challenge

A challenge! Sound familiar? Hey, we didn’t say there weren’t knockoffs from “The Bachelor.” But it’s thankfully a very short portion of the show — Tim gives to each of the women an assignment to write lyrics for a song verse. The catch: They also must sing the verse.

Everyone’s a winner in this challenge, since no one has to sing by themselves, but visiting each group gives women more of a chance to get some time with Tim. He pops in on the group’s while they are workshopping their lyrics.

Alone Time With Tim

Each of the matchmakers, who watched the date play out, have chosen one girl from their group to have some alone time with Tim. Team Amber has chosen Hailey; Team Matthew has chosen Danielle Duff, who up until this point, only stood out when she sang a brief but impressive part of her song; Team Tracy chose Christina, based on what looked like a lustful connection between her and Tim.

The most memorable one-on-one session was between Tim and Hailey, but not for a good reason. Tim asks Hailey to share her most embarrassing moment, and let’s just say, I was embarrassed while I was watching it. It involves a bodily emission at an awkward time (in front of a guy she was dating). I’m actually still turned off. (Sorry, but it’s true.)

Another note: Can we quit with Tim and the ladies holding full flutes of champagne? They’re either not sipping enough of it or not sipping it at all. We’d like to see the alcohol be functional here.

Eliminations

Now they’re all back on the stage for Tim to make his final decision.

This is where the matchmakers once again play coach, and each of them must choose one woman from their team to put on the chopping block. Tim then sends one of them home.

The Women

It helps all the girls are beautiful (this is TV after all). But these women seem like ACTUAL PEOPLE. Like, they have talents and flaws and (thankfully) no awful fake tans. Sure, they’re spackled with makeup and glitter, but they seem like people you may actually want to talk to at a bar. One is a talented pianist, another tells great jokes. They’re not catty to each other (yet, anyway) and even talk about respecting each other.

Granted, some were better with Tim than others. Here are this week’s major misses:

Lisa Conlin from Team Amber:

Lisa is a singer, but not just any singer, an opera singer. She decides to serenade Tim with some opera, which was as awkward as it sounds. And for Tim, he probably has told himself the last person he wants to end up with on this show is an unsigned singer, considering his career status.

Alexis Rodriguez from Team Matthew:

A radio disc jockey from Arizona, Alexis had only one trick up her sleeve: A freestyle rap. That wasn’t awkward so much as it was weird and just not sexy. Tim felt the same way, so she had to go.

Lana Sears from Team Tracy:

Sad to say, Lana only had herself to offer, and it wasn’t enough. She had no interesting back story, no talent, and no hook to draw Tim in. All she could claim was that she was herself and she was there for the right reasons, which made her just like everyone else. This was Tim’s easiest elimination.

Of the ones who stayed, here is a list of the girls I had my eye on.

Leah Trogan from Team Matthew:

She was the wild card, an old friend of Tim’s. They met when he was married, so the elephant in the room is, has she already slept with him? (The answer is obvious.) The more pressing question was, what is she thinking? If she couldn’t get with Tim in the six years they’ve known each other, how was being on a game show going to be different?

Christina Rigaud from Team Tracey:

The gorgeous pianist from New Orleans. Granted, Tim has to make sure she’s really there for love and not to pass along her demo. But from the moment they made eye contact, you could see the chemistry between them.

Hailey Clark from Team Amber:

Hailey is a school teacher by day, an artist by night, but she showed personality early on by pulling out a note from her bra for Tim, which was written by her dad. She wins points for ribbing him on how hard it was to write a song for someone “as unattractive as him,” a joke that most men can appreciate if they’re confident.

Who Was Up For Elimation?

Hailey:

I have to say, I thought she belonged in the elimination round too. But I knew she wasn’t going home. Her personality, while bold, does have an edge Tim’s been drawn to throughout the show. And she’s beautiful. And so Tim gave her a pass to the next round.

Sarah:

Of all the girls in Tracy’s group, Sarah was the one who had the hardest time loosening up. She treated the process like an interview instead of a play date. But what Sarah lacked in spontaneity and personality, she made up for in mystery. Tim had no reason to keep her, but perhaps most importantly, he had no reason to get rid of her yet. She too stayed.

Leah:

Tim has known Leah for a while, and there’s a reason he put her in the friend-zone. Why? We don’t find out, but when given the chance to choose between a group of new, beautiful women and a blast from his past, Tim makes the choice most men would make: he sends Leah home.

Next Week

We meet 2 more bachelors!

Jozen Cummings runs the New York Post blind date column, Meet Market, which appears every Sunday. He also writes his own relationship blog, UntilIGetMarried.com. Follow him on Twitter @jozenc.

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