Beyond The Bachelor: Ranking all the free to air dating shows your heart can handle

Now that The Bachelor NZ roses have wilted, Ghazaleh Golbakhsh rounds up some of the best dating shows to fill the aching void in your heart. 

The idea of institutionalized marriage first started off in the West as a way to gain property and to procreate. It was seen as something serious and respectful (well minus the sexism) so it is rather hilarious that that irony is lost on shows like The Bachelor and Married at First Sight, which shit on that very notion. I love those shows in particular for giving the middle finger to that rather archaic institution.

Love, however, is something different. Love should not be messed with because deep down we all want it. Most of us want validation and acceptance and to give love to others. In the spirit of love, I decided to research some alternative dating shows on New Zealand channels. To save you from undertaking the same horrid endeavour, I made up a rating system of the best dating shows to the absolute worst (like utterly, completely dismal).

To aide us, I used a scientifically proven rating system: The Zac-o-Metre, courtesy of the dullest Bachelor since Art ‘pretty boy’ Green. Here they are from best to worst:

The Undateables

Despite the cruel title, this show is actually pretty damn decent. I have met some people who find this show ‘cringe-worthy’ to which I say, fight your inherent prejudices against people with disabilities or differences and wake the fuck up. This is why we need a show like this.

The Undateables opens up a typically homogenous genre to those on the margins. The series follows various people – some with mental or physical disabilities, some who are just a bit ‘different’ – across the UK who sign up to dating agencies.

I quite like the intimacy and personal touch here, rather than relying on a bogus app created by some Uni dropout millionaire. For the most part, the show is not condescending and the participants seem earnest enough – if not always satisfied with their match.

Rating: 4 Zacs, because diversity onscreen means more than just gender and ethnicity. It’s also the only show on my list that has heart and is not an ego-fueled cesspit of narcissism.

Take Me Out

This one is my wildcard. Boy is it wild, crass and absolutely ridiculous. But therein lies the fun. It starts with some poor sacrificial man being brought to the altar of 30 over-hyped women decked in Topshop rejects and hair boffs that only the Brits know how to excel in.

They light their buzzers if they like what they see (“No lighty, No Likey”). If the man manages to survive two rounds of lights, he can choose the woman he’d like to go on a date with. For ages I thought they were saying “To Nandos” and the winners would get a free dinner date at Portugal’s answer to overpriced tasty chicken. 

It’s actually a free trip to fictional “Fernandos” based on the island of Tenerife, full of ex-pat Brits, hen’s nights and guys called ‘Gazza’.

In a world where swiping your phone on the Link bus could mean meeting the love of your life, this show works. Watch it, if just for the outfits and cringe-worthy puns.

Rating: Three Zacs for fun, minus 5 Zacs for your ability to have any brain cells intact afterwards.

First Dates NZ 

I first heard about this show when a tirade of thoughtful friends sent me the link to it with hopes that I’d join up. I couldn’t think of anything worse than being filmed on a blind first date.

The concept is simple. Two people are set up based on their likes and dislikes. They meet at a public date place for a date. They report back to the cameras like a confessional on whether or not they want to see that person again and it’s totes awkward.

In true Kiwi fashion, the NZ version gives us reasonably normal folks, each earnestly there to find love. “Love can be found anywhere at any time,” states one poor sod who has been single for eight years and is still ready to mingle. This all seems cute and fairly harmless but it doesn’t change the fact that first date nerves are the worst – made even worse when you’re surrounded by cameras and voyeurs.

Rating: Two Zacs for the ability to make SkyCity look less like a greasy opium den and for locally made content that isn’t about home renovations.

Honorable mention: To get hip and down with the kids and their animal viral videos, TVNZ also created an online mini-series based on First Dates featuring guinea pigs

Love Island

By introducing us to a group of young single Brits desperate for love, Love Island jumps on the beautiful, hedonistic bandwagon  – and does so without any originality or intellect, but with a large measure of blatant commercialism. The group is taken to some fancy villa on a tropical island, where they flirt and fight with each other until a winning couple emerges who must choose between eternal love or £50,000.

There’s also a whopping 40 something episodes per season! Ah, capitalism, destroying love and relationships since, well, since feudalism began.

Rating: 1 Zac for the spectacle – beautiful bodies, beautiful mansions and utter boredom all around.

The Millionaire Matchmaker

The first time I ever saw this show, I was in one of those posh apartments in the Viaduct helping a friend housesit. It was agony but I couldn’t leave. I mean, sea views and fancy bathrooms! So I endured what felt like the longest hour ever witnessed on television.

Self-confessed dating guru Patti Stanger takes millionaire men (because millionaire women ain’t got no time for this) and sets them up with groups of attractive young women to date. Yawn. You could look at it in two different ways. Either the show is an exploitation of gullible rich men being duped to spend big bucks on something that is probably rigged and purely made for television, or it’s about sleazy rich old dudes wanting to bang hot young women and brag about it on television but not seem creepy.

Rating: 0 Zacs. This is everything I despise about our species.  

Dating Naked 

This show could probably do with its own detailed analysis. Two singles are taken to a beautiful tropical island, they strip off and meet two different dates in the buff.

They then churn out some wonderful one-liners like, “My first impression of Ashley was a whole lot of bush, you could put dreads on that thing.”

At first, it seemed fun and not as torturous as the concept suggests. Then 10 minutes in, one of the daters proclaims that he is a sexual healer who “uses sexual energy to help people evolve” and it’s all over. The beefy MMA fighter takes a virginal lass who’s never seen a penis in real life on a boat date and she just voms for the rest of the date. This show takes all the class and tact one wants from well anything, puts it in a Nutribullet and blends it until all joy is annihilated and only the toxic residue of humiliation remains.

Rating: -2 Zacs. This show has enough sadness to make even poor Zac rethink his life choices. I don’t even know if I can keep this up.

Strip Date

Did you know you that can get two bottles of cheap but tasty Merlot for $20 at Countdown? Because that’s where I am right now. I’m done.

Rating: 5 Zacs for low range supermarket wine that doesn’t taste like piss. I love this country.


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