Dating games are game shows that incorporate a variety of matchmaking systems and services in the form of a game with clear rules. Human matchmaking is only involved in the selection of the game’s competitors, who are usually selected more for fun value than any concern for their happiness or compatibility. The audience only sees the game; an important feature of all dating game shows is that contestants have little or no prior knowledge of each other and are exposed to each other only through play, which may include viewing a photograph or at least knowledge of the basic criteria for participation (typically participants are not already married).
Numerous dating shows have been televised over the years, using a variety of formats and rules. They are presented for the entertainment of viewers. As the genre progressed, the format developed towards a reality style show and more into a relationship show, so simply finding a mate.
The dating game subgenre has its origins in the United States. The original dating games were presented by TV producer Chuck Barris. The format of Barris’ first dating show, The Dating Game, which began in 1965, put an unmarried man behind a screen to ask questions of three women who were potential mates, or a woman who asked questions of three men. The person behind the screen could hear their responses and voices but could not see them during the game, although the audience could see the contestants. The various suitors were able to describe their rivals in unflattering ways, which made the show work well as a general devolution of dignity. The questions were often obviously rigged to get ridiculous answers or to be obvious allusions to characteristics of the participants’ private areas.
The Newlywed Game, by contrast, another Barris show, had recently married couples competing to answer questions about each other’s preferences. The couple who knew each other best would win the game; sometimes others got divorced. Once, someone divorced after appearing in The Newlywed Game had a “second chance” in The Dating Game. Gimmicks were the lifeblood of all these shows, drawing criticism to instigate disaffection that could not have been carried out.
The genre declined for a while, but was later taken over by The New Dating Game and the British version Blind Date, and the original shows were popular in reruns, unusual for any game show. Cable television revived some interest in these shows during the 1980s and 1990s, and eventually new programs began to be made according to the old concepts. Variations with LGBT competitors began to appear in some special channels.
Other shows have focused on conventional blind date, in which two people were set up and then captured on video, sometimes with commentary or subtitles mocking their dating behavior. He Said, She Said focused not on setting up the appointment, but on the subsequent comparison of the couple’s different impressions and their offer of collaboration to fund a second date. They resembled the reality shows that began to emerge around the same time in the 1990s.
The growing popularity of reality television in the early 2000s influenced new types of dating shows, where the emphasis was on realistic action and tension, but which used less realistic scenarios than traditional blind date:
The 2008 Australian series Taken Out (also exported internationally under the title Take Me Out) uses a format more like a game show, in which a bachelor discusses aspects of their personality and interests to a larger pool of singles located in front of the podiums.