Monday, August 1, 2011

Remember Singled Out?

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

This is yet another show that I watched too young. Jenny McCarthy was famous and MTV was what the cool kids at school talked about. And so, at the tender age of ten, I first tuned in to Singled Out. I thought the game was pretty straight-forward and I liked it. I watched several episodes before I found something better on in the timeslot and I moved on. I never really tuned in after that, but my memory was jolted by the 1996 episode of Boy Meets World where Eric goes on a "college edition" of the show. (no worries if you don't remember that part - the other main story in the episode was Cory having his tonsils out. but... you can see it here, but beware the Singled Out segment is shorter than the real version.)

Brief history: Ask my brother or any of his friends what they remember most about Singled Out and the answer is going to be "Carmen Electra." But she didn't actually join the show until 1997. Before that it was hosted by Jenny McCarthy (who left when her eponymous sketch-comedy series launched) and Chris Hardwick (who was with the show for its entirety, 1995-1998). I honestly wasn't able to find much about the origins of the show, as it seems most sources only speculate. 

The game: The premise is incredibly simple for this one. 50 male contestants were on each episode, competing for a date with a pre-selected woman. That woman, the "picker," was brought out, blindfolded, to sit on the opposite side of a wall from the "dating pool" of 50 eligible contestants. The picker was then shown a board with six possible areas of elimination (which changed from episode to episode), and they were to choose something that might be important to them in choosing a romance. Everything from hobbies to physical characteristics were up there, and they picked a category. Then, they had to rule out a sub-section of that quality, and every person in the "dating pool" who fell under that definition had to leave, walking by the picker on their way out, so s/he saw who was eliminated by making that selection. The picker had to do this 3-4 times (give or take, depending), until 5-10 contestants are left, generally 6-7 in my memory. The second round was "keep 'em or dump 'em," which had the picker asking questions to the remaining contestants or having them compete in simple challenges. They couldn't see the contestants, and "kept or dumped" them based on whether their response or performance met whatever arbitrary standards they desired. This round just kept going until there were only three remaining contestants. [and if you clicked to watch the Boy Meets World episode, you'll notice this segment is missing.] Then we had "The Final Cut," which had the contestants standing on a platform. They'd be asked a two-choice question, and if the response matched that of the picker, that player took a step forward, and this repeated until one player hit the inner circle. If there's a tie, a closest-without-going-over-type question would be used. The winning contestant and the picker were then placed back-to-back and Chris would share some information about the contestant. They'd be spun around to meet one another as they heard about the date night they would receive (generally a limousine ride to a restaurant and then a play or a concert). Then, the game would be repeated with a male picker and 50 women. Here's an example:

(1995) from Jamie Flam on Vimeo.

(...did you notice the scruncie on the picker's wrist?? dated!)

Notable changes to the way the game is played: For the third season, the picker had a "golden ticket" that s/he could give to an eliminated contestant as they walked by from the first round. Having a "golden ticket" would automatically allow that person to move on to the second round. During Final Cut, there would also sometimes be a question that would allow a contestant to move two steps closer instead of just one.

Special contestants: Although the show was primarily aimed at promoting heterosexual relationship, there were a few episodes featuring homosexual pickers and contestants. Also, Twins' Day stands out, as twins acted as the pickers. Sure, there were a few celebrity pickers, but that was never really the focus.

Favorite Rounds: I actually really enjoyed the first part of this show. I thought the selections made by the contestants were interesting (especially when they preferred a minority characteristic), and I loved the looks on the picker's face when they saw who they were missing out on. Oh, and my least favorite part about this show? The cheesy opening lines the contestants would give when introducing themselves at the start of the second round!

My take: Should I have been single at any point in my adult life, I'd give it a go. I don't know how well I'd do as a contestant, but being a picker would be interesting. I consider myself to prefer guys who aren't as mainstream (no musclemen or beer drinkers for me!), so I feel like my round would probably go by pretty quickly. I would probably struggle with choosing guys in the second round based on strange performances though!

Did you ever watch Singled Out? Do you have a Jenny/Carmen preference? Would you have wanted to be on the show?
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