Misha Kavka

Television by definition is a medium that invites questions about how real its version of reality is. Love by definition is oddly similar, always open to doubts about whether one is 'really' in love. As the Oracle tells Neo in The Matrix (1999), 'no one can tell you you're in love - you just know it, through and through, balls to bones.' Itself invisible, always begging to be proved or performed, love also has the putative power to skew one's view of reality. In the U.S. the reality TV series The Bachelor (ABC, 2002) and Joe Millionaire (Fox, 2003), like Perfect Match (Channel 4) in the UK, drew an enthusiastic viewership for the spectacle of winnowing down a field of suitors to a single one who 'wins' the affections of the bachelor/ette. The success of such shows has produced a tide of similar-but-different formats, announcing the era of Real Love TV-1 It may seem perverse that the conditions for 'real' love are being relegated to television, whose cameras can only bastardize properly private emotion. Yet I will argue that this shift on our screens from telling love stories in fiction programmes to performing love-making through reality TV is curiously appropriate, for the confirmation of both - the reality of the televisual world and the reality of being in love - comes down to a matter of feeling.

The format draws in part on the ill-fated experiments in wedding-TV by the Fox channel (Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire? and Who Wants to Marry a Prince?) but also has links to other, more exotic examples of the real-love genre, namely Temptation Island and Love Cruise (both Fox, 2001 and 2002), which draw on the Big Brother format of isolating a group of people, introducing the stress of expulsion, and filming their interactions. What makes such programs interesting is their double structure: diegetically, the ideology of requited love prevails (even if, l or precisely because, they consist of testing such an ideology), but in their form these programs urge us to love without return, since as viewers we expend a great deal of emotion on people who cannot see us back. In this chapter, I will focus on this sudden surge of real-love TV, arguing that the coupling-based derivatives of the Big Brother docu-soap teach us a lesson not about social interaction, or even about the woeful dissolution of the private sphere, but about media intimacy.

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