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Pass the virtual mashed potatoes

March 01, 2007|Brad Dickson | Special to The Times

LISTEN up, lonely L.A. singles. Your weekend nights spent trolling social networking websites vainly searching for a mate who doesn't look like an escaped convict or TV weatherman are history. Dutch art company Tilburgs CowBoys has come out with a DVD series so single people never again have to dine alone.

The DVDs feature bilingual script-reading actors simulating dinner conversation. You pop in the DVD, grab a meal, plop down in front of the TV, and presto -- lonely no more. The six options range from "a good discussion" to "a romantic evening."

Who says romance is dead? Romance is alive and well, just don't forget to place the disc safely back in its jewel case before returning romance to the DVD rental store.

As ideas go, this probably ranks right up (down?) there with the camera that snaps your photo when you run a red light. That, and the notion my ex-partner had for a line of wind chimes featuring photos of deceased porn stars.

This is undoubtedly the worst Dutch concept since wooden shoes. I pity the poor soul having dinner with a DVD in a country where almost everything has been legalized. Although I consider myself a dove, I wouldn't be averse to going to war to keep this product out of the U.S.

Many of the DVDs feature actors posing as pseudo family members offering typical holiday family conversation. I presume they ask to borrow money, demand to know when I'm getting married and regale attendees with embarrassing stories of when I was 5 and left for school without my pants.

I have little interest in the faux family DVD, although I'm mildly intrigued by the "romantic evening" option. This is the bottom of the dating totem pole. It's for those who've struck out on JDate, MySpace, blind dates and the bar scene. It's for guys whose application for a mail-order bride was rejected, or whose inflatable love doll leaks.

Because singles uprooted from their families at holiday time are the stated target demographic, it includes me. In years past I've had my share of solitary holidays, including the Christmas Eve I drove into Hollywood to give money to the less fortunate only to find that apparently even the less fortunate were invited to some holiday event.

I've spent holidays huddled in front of the TV with my cold dinner watching Christmas parades, waving back at celebrities whom I thought had died 10 years before. And I've passed more than a few Saturday nights calling AM talk radio shows with topics like "The Best Trusses for Relieving Your Hiatal Hernia." And "The Ugly Truth About Small Claims Court." Still, I won't be ordering this DVD.

EVIDENTLY, however, the producers believe there's international demand -- people so desperate for human contact they're willing to spend cold winter evenings gazing into the eyes of a Dutch thespian paying his dues.

Against all odds, the DVD may become popular with Americans. Remember, we could put a small dent in the national debt with the money we dropped on that video of a burning Yule log. We're also the suckers who bought Pet Rocks, Silly Putty and Barry Manilow CDs.

Yet I doubt it'll sell in L.A. People here realize if they want to mingle with underemployed actors, all they have to do is walk into any restaurant and talk to the wait staff.

But it just might sell to those with a morbid fear of being alone. So if you feel compelled, enjoy the DVD and your newfound family and romantic interests. Who are being paid to dine with you.

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