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The reality of TV dating shows

July 19, 2009|Maria Elena Fernandez

Once upon a time, there was "The Bachelor," the first reality show to turn dating into a competitive sport. Popular from the start, it appeared on the TV landscape in 2002 when the genre took over the business and completed its 13th cycle in May with a huge finish -- 17.5 million viewers.

Dozens of iterations of the show, which revolves around a handsome man who chooses a potential wife among 25 women, have come since then, including the ABC spin-off "The Bachelorette," which is airing its fifth edition.

The copycats can be found all over the dial, with some of the most popular versions appearing on MTV and VH1 in the form of "A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila" and "Rock of Love With Bret Michaels." Tequila is a bisexual TV personality who selects her mates from a pool of 16 women and 16 men. Michaels, of the band Poison, makes things tougher on the women who court him by making them compete in physical challenges before they can date him.

Has anyone really fallen in love on these shows?

Mike Fleiss, who created "The Bachelor," "The Bachelorette" and the Fox newcomer, "More to Love," says he's always surprised by the skepticism.

"If you follow the show or its aftermath, you realize that these people make serious emotional connections," he said. "I still get calls from seasons long past from women asking if so and so asks about them. That's not fake. The emotional residue lasts years."

But do the relationships? Let the record speak for itself. Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter, of the first season of "The Bachelorette," are married and have two children. Byron Velvick and Mary Delgado, of the sixth cycle of "The Bachelor," have been together for nearly five years. The rest of the couples involved in those shows have broken up.

Even Flavor Flav of Public Enemy, who tried it for three seasons, went back to basics. Last year, he announced he was ending his popular show on VH1, "Flavor of Love," because he had decided instead to marry the mother of his seventh child.

-- Maria Elena Fernandez

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