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COMMITMENTS : The Game of Love : They're young. They're hip. And they're in the mood for . . . well, fun anyway. Welcome to TV's latest dating show.

June 05, 1995|TRACY JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The personals looked scary. Dating services seemed impersonal. Her philosophy on bars: Most people there are already on dates and if you can't meet someone sober, what's the use?

Yet Dusdianna Fisette, 21, thought MTV's new dating game looked like fun.

She said she was hot 'n' spicy, not cool and mild. She was more of a mezzanine than a penthouse or basement, when it came to height. She described her chest as full cups versus cups runneth over.

With these answers, Fisette was "Singled Out" to win a date with Taimak, the choosing bachelor.

"Oh my god," gasped Taimak, 25, when he saw his date. "She's beautiful."

It's not nearly as risque as Fox TV's "Studs," or as coy as "Love Connection." Instead, "Singled Out" is a funky hybrid of pillow talk and Old World matchmaking--a new dating show that plays Cupid for Generation X.

Debuting on MTV at 7 tonight, "Singled Out" is the music network's first dating show. But instead of looking at the actual date, the show spoofs the dating process in its 18-to-25-year-old demographic. By the conclusion of the 13-week series--airing five days a week at 7 and 11 p.m.--130 couples will have won a ticket to love.

"Dating and having relationships is such a big part of young people's lives," says Lisa Berger, executive producer. "We thought a show like 'Singled Out' would be a fun way of trying to match people up."

They hit the beaches, colleges, bars and nightclubs in search of able-bodied hipsters willing to have a good time. MTV previewed the show during its spring break coverage and Berger says interest in "Singled Out" is phenomenal.

*

At a recent taping, 100 guys and gals turn up at a Burbank studio looking for love. A blindfolded Wendy Heffington, 23, is escorted to the picker's throne in front of a vanity mirror amid cat calls of "Ooooh, baby" and construction-worker whistles.

She is hidden from her potential dates as hosts Chris Hardwick and Jenny McCarthy proceed with Round One, the process of elimination, by pulling questions off the game board.

First, let's ditch an entire age group.

"Egg Foo Young or Egg Foo Old?" Hardwick asks.

"Young," replies Heffington, a Ventura retail manager.

As the guys under 21 walk off the stage each stops in front of Heffington to show her what she's missing. Hardwick, meanwhile, moves on to the next question.

"Bare skin or bear skin?"

Heffington boots the hairy rugs out of the running.

Only six guys make it to Round Two, "Keep 'Um Or Dump 'Um," where Heffington's test gets tougher. Bachelor No. 6 is eliminated when he can't remember a grocery list; No. 3 gets knocked out when he doesn't follow her instructions for giving bachelor No. 2 a hug.

With three guys left in Round Three, "The Horse Race," each needs to answer Heffington's questions with the same response written on her poster board.

"Sandra Bullock, very hot or not?" she queries them. "Cooler mom: Marge Simpson or Mrs. Brady?"

Finally, Beau Vierra, who answers her questions perfectly, is "Singled Out."

But Vierra, 24, is no novice here. In fact, this is his seventh appearance at a taping of the show. But this time, he was picked.

"This show is a really fun place to meet people," says the aspiring actor from West Hills. "It's really hard to meet people in L.A. because so many people here have a bad attitude."

*

As a cigar-smoking Cupid sits on a heart above this arena-like setting, the young men and women who are spectators or participants in this dating game mingle. Some say the game in here is easier to play than the one that exists in the real world.

Depending on what you're looking for, Heffington says Los Angeles can be a difficult place to date.

"It's a great place to be when you're young 'cause you can meet a lot of people and there's a lot of opportunity to date," says Heffington, originally from Salinas. "But long-term relationships seem to be more difficult."

Here on the game show, no one seems to be looking for a serious relationship.

Backstage the nervous winners exchange phone numbers on Post-its and make plans for their dates. During a getting-to-know-you chat with her date, David Romano, Heather Koehn learns that the two strangers turned newly daters have mutual friends, which they agree sets them more at ease.

"I'm very happy with my date," says Koehn, a sophomore at UC Santa Barbara.

Romano jokes about getting Triple A for the drive up to Santa Barbara to pick up his date for the Catalina cruise they were awarded.

The dating game format appealed to Romano, 25, of Burbank, who was coaxed into doing the show by a friend. Easier than meeting someone in a bar or a blind date, Romano says, the experience was worth it.

"I was very comfortable," he says. "Everyone is here to have a good time."

Each 30-minute show features a man and a woman picker who each whittles 50 options down to one date. Contestants are short, tall, black and white. Some wear jeans and sweaters, while others choose T-shirts and shorts. And all the time they spend together during the show's taping has producers convinced that the picker isn't the only one going home with a phone number.

"It's a great way to meet people," says 22-year-old picker Kyle Kazak. "They put you in a room with 50 guys and 50 girls. If you can't meet someone here, something's definitely wrong."

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