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Beyond superficial, the face of dating reality TV shows is changing

Cameron Hamilton and Lauren Speed match in ’Love is Blind: Beyond the Altar’. Picture: Supplied

Cameron Hamilton and Lauren Speed match in ’Love is Blind: Beyond the Altar’. Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 1, 2021


Okay, I’m blown away by the fact that “Selling Sunset” cast members Chrishell Stause and Jason Oppenheim are now an item.

Although, I can’t say I’m surprised. He was a protective teddy bear after her ex-hubby Justin Hartley unceremoniously dumped her.

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And, to be honest, they do make a gorgeous couple. Heck, even Mary Fitzgerald (Oppenheim’s ex) gave them her blessing.

That said, I do think the upcoming seasons will be most interesting - with a dash of awkward - now that an office romance has been thrown into the mix.

While on the topic of finding love, I spent this week watching three dating reality TV shows: “Love is Blind: After the Altar”, “Sexy Beasts” and “The Longest Date”.

The one thing that did stand out is the fact that some shows are breaking away from the superficial mould inculcated by shows like “Temptation Island” (side note: the South African edition premiers on Showmax on August 26), “Too Hot to Handle” and “Love Island”, to name a few.

While entertaining, the contestants on these shows are often led by their uncontrollable libidos and, to some extent, ego.

Then again, they are young, sexy as hell and available.

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So it’s kind of a double-edged sword in that they can’t honestly be expected to forge meaningful relationships with so much temptation sauntering about.

And that’s been my biggest gripe, too.

After a while, you get tired of watching these vacuous interactions.

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That said, the genre seems to be getting a much-needed overhaul. And the show that best exemplifies this is “Love is Blind: After the Altar”.

Vanessa and Nick Lachey are the hosts of ’Love is Blind: After the Altar’. Picture: Supplied

Hosted by Vanessa and Nick Lachey, this 10-part series matches singles, who have great professional careers but need a little help on the relationship front.

The 20 to 30-somethings have one common objective: they are looking to settle down with the one.

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As such, they are given the opportunity to do just that. All distractions from the outside world cease as the men and women find themselves in a sort of speed dating scenario, where they interact with each other from individual pods. They are able to chat but through a frosted glass screen.

Within days, certain individuals start bonding. Some vibe with more than one person and it does create a bit of tension. But that is the whole point.

They need to connect and, should it prove to be a match made in a pod, so to speak, they leave the house an engaged couple and, within a short time frame thereafter, tie the knot.

The contestants also get the opportunity to let their guard down, address past struggles and also be more open-minded to deviating from their preconceived beliefs.

My favourite couple so far is Lauren Speed and Cameron Hamilton, who truly embody the spirit of the show. Their connection was instant and organic. Yes, they faced cultural challenges but their devotion to each other has been unwavering.

“Love is Blind: After the Altar” doesn’t rely on gimmicky twists, it’s heartfelt, sincere but not without drama, of course.

Model Emma got to choose her Sexy Beast in the first episode. Picture: Supplied

Now let’s talk about“Sexy Beast”. When I first stumbled across it, I did drop a few F-bombs. It’s just so freaking weird. But, hey, it’s different.

This show has a “First Dates”-esque feel with one person having to choose between three prospective love matches. The twist is, they do so in various disguises from a demon, pixie, zombie, mouse, baboon, statue, tin man, rhinoceros, scarecrow, witch and more... you get the picture.

In the six-part series, you get to eventually see everyone’s true identity. But first, they must navigate the dating course laid out and figure out if they have that animal attraction or not.

I could do without hearing the constant sarcastic chirping of the narrator - it would have been best to keep those Dave Lamb vibes for “Come Dine with Me”. Oh well…

The cast and host of ’The Longest Date’. Picture: Supplied

Last, but certainly not least, this brings me to “The Longest Date”, which is hosted by Chris Jaftha. In this extreme, high-octane dating show, 16 singles go on the ultimate blind date.

Amid the adventurous sides surfacing, there is a clash of personalities and plenty of histrionics on display.

Set in KwaZulu-Natal, the first episode was interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out now that the contestants have been paired. Think of this show as “Survivor” on dating steroids.

It’s refreshing to see dating reality shows dropping the superficial slant in favour of sincere one.

“Love is Blind: After the Altar” and “Sexy Beasts” is currently streaming on Netflix. “The Longest Dates” is on SABC3 on Mondays at 9pm.