Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Back when I lived in L. A. I used to get these trashy contest postcards in the mail. "CONGRATULATIONS!" they'd blare. "YOU'RE A GRAND PRIZE WINNER! You've definitely won one of the following prizes:

  • A Mercedes Benz S-class
  • $40,000
  • 4 days and 3 nights at a Florida motel for just $99"
It didn't take Einstein to get wise to the concept: you had to call a 900 number to find out which prize you won, and everybody got the third, useless prize. Evidently it fooled some people, though. It's the same stupidity we see on reality shows and sporting events: some people assume that if there are several choices, they must have equal odds.

Jeff Probst espouses this constantly on Survivor. If there are two contestants left, he'll say their odds of winning are fifty-fifty.

Um, news flash. If an amputee nun faced Ryan Lochte in a swimming pool, nobody would say it's a tossup.

Anyway, somebody's taken that model and actually fashioned it into a TV show. Baggage is a dating program hosted by Jerry Springer where a contestant gets to select from three potential dates, each of whom has three pieces of luggage with a secret hidden inside. The potential dates reveal their secrets, and the contestant picks the one that scares him the least. He then reveals his secret, leaving the person he's chosen the final decision about whether or not they'll go out.

Of course, you'll immediately notice the fatal flaw of this program, which it shares with the unwatchable Howie Mandel dating show Take Me Out: Contestants are actually given a choice whether to accept a night on the town with a perfect stranger or just go home by themselves.

I don't know about you, but there's no chance I'm humiliating myself on national TV just to go home to microwave popcorn and a stack of shirtless Lee Majors photos. I'm going on this date, and I don't care if that means I'm spending the evening with a self-flagellating Satanist or a step-dancing Etsy salesman. I don't care if I'll be spending four hours yelling, "SHUT UP, ASSHOLE!" while jamming caviar in my mouth with both hands. I'm. Going. Out.

From the opening of the show, though, deceit is dangled in front of us. Did the contestant:

  • pose as a cable repairman so he could steal underwear from someone's clothesline?
  • Rub peanut butter all over his body and then break into a petting zoo?
or did he
  • call Argo "vastly overrated" on Facebook?
I watch the show from the edge of the couch, and actually get aroused by the possibilities. These disclosures aren't "baggage," I think: they're . . . hot.

I've always loved perverts, mostly because I admire their determination. You know a man who has a flamingo and a bullwhip in his bedroom isn't going to quibble about turning off the lights. You won't spend the first eighty minutes of your encounter repeating, "Okay, so what do you want to do?" Currently I'm crushing on that Monsignor Meth guy, who wore women's lingerie and had sex in the rectory. Call me crazy, but there's nothing hotter than a man who gives up his right to heaven just to see you in a crinoline smock.

As each piece of luggage opens, though, reality sets in. It's nothing like you imagined. All that potential, and instead you have a guy who's never tasted a turnip going out with a chick who's never changed the batteries in her smoke alarm.

Still, the show turns out to be educational. This isn't about brains: it's about hope. I don't get irrational over a Mercedes, or $40,000. My heart doesn't overrule my head when it comes to amputee nuns. But if that postcard had gotten me a shot at a guy who cut a gloryhole in a doghouse, I'd be calling that phone number as we speak.

No comments: