'Eligible' won't do Big D any favors

Posted 10:17am on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011

Friends make fun of me. Colleagues look at me in puzzlement. But I've never been embarrassed to admit that I like reality television, especially the conflict-ridden, over-the-top melodrama of shows like Jerseylicious on the Style Network or "The Real Housewives" franchise on Bravo. It might all be contrived, maybe even fake; it perhaps appeals to our basest instincts, to see otherwise sane-seeming people screech at one another for an hour.

I prefer to look at the brighter side, that the best reality TV -- whether The Real L Word on Showtime or Extreme Couponing on TLC or that insanely addictive program that takes us behind-the-scenes of The Oprah Winfrey Show (yes, I watch them all) -- celebrates the weird pop carnival of modern American life. Indeed, in trying economic times, there's a lot to be said for seeing how others are making their way in this crazy world. Even if these other people often come off as completely crazy.

It goes without saying, then, that I was giddy when Bravo announced it was coming to town to film Most Eligible Dallas, about six privileged singletons looking for love in Big D. Who doesn't like the idea of seeing their own reality, even if it's just a restaurant or club you've once visited, reflected back at you on TV? I was even more excited when an invitation was forwarded to me to attend the premiere party last Monday night at the Highland Park Village Theatre. The cast would be in attendance! Champagne would be flowing!

The only problem: Most Eligible Dallas, which will continue its run Monday nights through September, has turned out to be a crushing disappointment. It purports to anatomize the fast-and-slick lives of a group of impossibly glamorous Dallasites. What's on the screen, however, comes off as utterly lame.

To wit: One of the cast members, Courtney, works as a manager at a Sunglass Hut, a respectable position, no doubt, but -- as the catty women sitting next to me at the premiere party noted -- not exactly what you think of when you think of the phrase "Most Eligible." Three of the other cast members -- Drew, Tara and Matt -- have jobs with their parents' companies. Back when I was still dating, that was usually a glaring red flag: Do you really want to go out with someone who lacks the imagination to come up with his or her own career path?

Without a note of irony, or any of the sort of deranged brio the assorted "Housewives" from Atlanta or Orange County bring to their reality shows, these people keep talking about how awesome they are. At one point in the premiere, Matt says: "I'm the total package" -- which suggests he hasn't looked into a mirror and noticed the expanding, Friar Tuck bald spot on his head. My point here isn't that bald guys aren't sexy; heck, I'm as bald as they come. But a little bit of humility, and the ability to occasionally laugh at yourself, goes a long way in the reality TV galaxy.

More than just presenting us with hopelessly dull people, though, this series shows them doing incredibly dull things: meeting for lunch in Plano; enjoying bottle service at a mostly empty nightclub. Perhaps it's the familiarity of these settings for viewers in North Texas that deprives them of their onscreen luster -- if you've ever been to Jasper's, for instance, you know it's not quite the luxe establishment presented on the show.

But Most Eligible Dallas is so wan, and the conflicts are so commonplace -- Courtney has a crush on Matt, Drew has issues with his sexuality -- that even people in Iowa or Maine are going to regard this portrait of the "fast life" as slack.

As for last Monday's premiere party, there was indeed champagne and a lot of people in expensive clothes and even a snazzy afterparty at Tre Wilcox's Marquee Grill. Me, I jetted out of the proceedings early, feeling a tad dejected -- almost like a parent who just watched his kid strike out at Little League. All eyes (or at least all those eyes that can't get enough of reality television) were upon the city of Dallas, and it whiffed.

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