The TV critic at The New York Times is keeping an eye on the tube, so we don’t have to. Reading this, describing what’s coming into our living rooms this summer, I have to think that’s a very good thing:
In case you missed the news that traditional courtship is dead, naked people on VH1 stand ready to enlighten you. And in case you thought that television networks had evolved beyond trying to attract viewers with cheesy titillation — ditto.
Yes, it’s time for “Dating Naked,” a reality series beginning Thursday on VH1 in which just-introduced strangers looking for love are nude from the get-go. This comes nine days after the new FYI channel, an A&E offshoot, introduced “Married at First Sight,” in which strangers paired by supposed experts begin their relationship by marrying, then decide whether they like each other.
Both shows are probably inevitable next steps in television’s endless effort to capitalize on the human need to pair up, which stretches back to “The Dating Game” of the 1960s and runs through “The Bachelor,” “The Millionaire Matchmaker” and odd variations like “It Takes a Church.”
The two new entries are, of course, outrageous affronts to the style of courtship that has served humanity quite well for millenniums, if you don’t count the dismaying frequency of divorce and resulting psychological damage to all involved. The shows are taking what used to be the long-term goal — getting married or seeing someone naked or both — and making it the starting point. As Chrissy, one of the geniuses in the first episode of “Dating Naked,” notes: “It is awkward meeting someone naked. I mean, usually you wait till sex.”
…“Dating Naked” won’t seem all that scandalous to inhabitants of the texting generation, for whom sharing photos of their naughty bits is now routine. The series is just a continuation of a tawdry show-it-all TV trend that began a year or so ago when reality series involving nude castaways (“Naked and Afraid”), nude real estate transactions (“Buying Naked”) and nude body painting (“Naked Vegas”) began turning up.
Fox has apparently been developing its own naked-dating show, though The Wrap reported the other day that it has been postponed for reasons unknown; maybe to study ways to make it nakeder than “Dating Naked”? Showtime commissioned a video (title: “Undress Me”) of strangers stripping one another as a promotion — oh, sorry; according to the network, it’s a “social experiment” — for the new season of “Masters of Sex.” In August, GSN introduces a body painting show called “Skin Wars.”Clearly, there soon won’t be a clothed person left on television, reality or scripted.