If video dating and personal ads weren't enough, now commercial and cable television are leaping into the Southern California dating fray--with classifieds on the airwaves.
In Los Angeles, single viewers will soon be able to watch a new half-hour program that will allow them to do "comparison shopping" for potential dates from the privacy and comfort of their own homes. And in Orange County, a thrice-weekly, half-hour program called "Meeting Connection" has been appearing on cable stations since June 30.
KCOP-TV, Channel 13, has spent the last two weeks answering phones and interviewing singles to be guests on its "Dateline: LA" show that will premiere Aug. 16. The show, with Judy Jernudd as host, will feature several singles in what KCOP describes as a light-hearted talk show format. All guests will be identified by their first names and last initials, and home viewers who think they spot Mr. or Ms. Right can send letters to their intended through the station.
"The phones have been ringing off the hook, so that leads me to believe that there is a real need for this in L.A.," said the show's creator, Rick Feldman, station manager at KCOP. "This is not a schlock, innuendo, double-entendre sex show at all. . . . This isn't a dating service really. We don't charge money, we don't get involved, we're not middle men, we won't read the letters. That's up to (the guests)."
Feldman came up with the idea last spring when he read a Newsweek magazine cover story about how few women over 30 marry.
So Feldman, who is married, asked his single friends, both men and women, if they would be interested in such a program, and most said they would watch but were too shy to go on the air.
But finding willing guests has hardly been a problem. Just two days after Channel 13 began running spots about the new show, the station was swamped with calls, and within a week had already spent 12 hours interviewing potential guests. More than 150 people called in the first 48 hours, according to a spokeswoman, who said the calls were about evenly split between men and women.
The idea is not new. Geof Baron, a free-lance cameraman from Van Nuys, produced three test shows of "Love Search," a singles program that premiered on Group W and Valley Cable company channels, on Valentine's Day. Baron said his show, which costs participants $100, will return with a new set of six programs in September.
KCOP officials said they were not aware of "Love Search."
Feldman estimated that the new KCOP show would reach 150,000 to 200,000 television sets if "Dateline's" test run of four weekly segments pulls in the same ratings share that "Benny Hill" did in that time slot.
"All of us single people here at KCOP have had to swear we're not interviewing for our personal information," media director Sue Raymer said, laughing. "But if I meet somebody wonderful, I'm not sure I'm going to stick to that . . ."
The show's format will try to avoid the kiss-and-tell game show style of the longtime ABC network favorite, "The Dating Game," and the newer "Love Connection" on NBC, organizers said. But on the other hand, it's not going to be Ted Koppel, either.
"It's not going to be serious stuff," Raymer said. "It's not going to be, 'How do you feel about the situation in Salvador?' It's going to be questions that will highlight their interests."
Bruce Gleason of Westminster also has his sights set on the singles crowd. The latest of his entrepreneurial video projects, "Meeting Connection," has been appearing on leased-access cable channels in most of Orange County since June 30.
"The concept is very simple. Putting it together and making it work is a lot more difficult," said Gleason, 31, who worked for ABC during the 1984 Olympics and has spinned off a slew of homegrown businesses over the past few years, videotaping weddings, sporting events and documentaries.
Unlike "Dateline," Gleason's show involves a form of two-way telecommunication: Viewers who notice someone interesting on the show can appear in their own 30-second video vignettes on the next week's program for a $250 fee.
The objects of their attention are told when the video messages will air, and after watching them can decide whether to pursue face-to-face meetings.
Gleason's Thumbs Up production company currently consists of three part-time secretaries and a cameraman, all operating out of Gleason's home. So far, the show, which airs in every county market except Santa Ana, Laguna Beach, Yorba Linda and Irvine, has been popular to watch, Gleason said, but has had to struggle a little to get participants.
For the first show, Gleason recruited many of his single friends, but now he says 75% of the people who appear are new to the show.
"The potential for this growing is really great," he said. "How often have you watched television and seen someone and said, 'She is so beautiful and she's got such a wonderful personality; I would love to meet her'? This allows you to do that."