'More to Love'
8 p.m. Tuesday, WFLD-Channel 32
Since creator Mike Fleiss also gave the world "The Bachelor" franchise, I guess it's his prerogative to knock himself off. "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" have shown remarkable longevity - bringing you hot tub drama since 2002! - especially considering the piddly success rate of its love matches.
(Respect, Trista and Ryan.)
Still, it was startling to see that Fleiss stuck with the same exact formula for his latest project, "More to Love." Our hero this time is a "regular guy" - Luke, 26, a successful real estate investor. He's cute, charming - and, it's repeatedly mentioned, more than 300 pounds, although he wears it well on his 6-foot-3 frame. The phrase "teddy bear" inevitably comes up a lot.
Just like on "The Bachelor," Luke dresses up and waits outside a generic mansion for limos-full of flirty females in formalwear to arrive. Just like on "The Bachelor," everybody has cocktails, and tries to catch Luke's attention, even if it means smooching him before he's learned their names.
But somehow, the routine isn't as fun on "More to Love." In fact, it's hypocritical. The hunk and his harem say over and over that the process will be about what's inside a person, not what's outside. They must mean "up to a point," because all the participants are gorgeous, no matter what their weight.
And the question of weight is never far from the conversation. "What's your favorite dessert?" is one girl's opening line. Whether the women profess to love their size or confess that they'd like to lose 50 pounds, they're all interviewed about it, endlessly. Many of them cry. One admits that she's never, ever been on a date. Not to look at the champagne glass as half empty, but this experience is probably not going to be too positive for her.
As is de rigueur, one of the women tries to make a splash by jumping into the pool in her gown. Awkward! No one is tempted to follow her - after all, notes one, who wants to go swimming in their Spanx? (The cannonballer later asks anxiously, "Did I look like a beached whale?")
If Fleiss was sincere in wanting to connect people based on more than looks, he would give the amiable Luke a new format. If it's not a show about superficiality, why is everyone dressed up like they're dateless at prom? If these women are so insistent that they're good people, why not show us what makes them great, instead of celebrating their ample cleavage?
The joy in watching "The Bachelor" or "The Bachelorette" is that these people don't need the show to find love (or a reasonable facsimile). They're young, attractive, outgoing, and are often more obviously after fame than a 60-year commitment. We don't really mind seeing them rejected.
(OK, I died a little inside when Jillian said goodbye to her adorable suitor Michael on "The Bachelorette," but I comforted myself with the knowledge that, after his national exposure, he will never want for a bedmate again.)
I am worried about the women on "More to Love." Too many of them seem to be the walking wounded. They're trying to fit into a format that just isn't flattering. I like the idea of focusing on a segment of the population that's more real, more vulnerable, but this is not the show that they deserve. It's just a little too heartbreaking for my taste.