For those of you who know me personally, you know that I rave about “Are You The One?” constantly, and I won’t give up trying to persuade the people close to me to jump on the AYTO bandwagon. I feel confident that, given the chance, this show will reel you in one episode at a time. And I’m not lying when I say that I forced my 30 year old brother to watch an episode with me and his reaction afterwards was “Are there more episodes On Demand?” Sorry bro, but this proves my point. Judge all you want about my obsession with bottom-of-the-barrel MTV shows, but there’s nothing more amusing than watching twenty year-olds tear themselves apart to find love and win money. If you’re into trashy reality television, love stories, puzzles, and competition, you’ll thank me later for putting this show on your radar. Like most other dating shows, AYTO strives to encourage the contestants to step outside of their usual dating habits. By thinking deeply about why their previous relationships have failed, what negative patterns they’ve developed over the course of their lives, and what is absolutely essential to them in a partnership, the hope is that each person connects with their perfect match on an emotional level different than they’ve ever experienced before. While most people leave the show still lacking in the love department, there have been exceptions on each of the four seasons (one couple from Season One is even married with a baby). It’s questionable whether these types of shows are made to succeed in their intentions of finding love for those involved, or if they are solely focused on entertaining the viewer.
The idea behind AYTO is that there are 10 men and 10 women, all complete strangers and all wildly attractive, who enter a house in order to find their “perfect match”. Each person has been matched with someone of the opposite sex by, what they say, are professional match makers, but no one knows who their match is. These early twenty year olds “suck at relationships” and are “ready to settle down”, but it’s clear that most of them have no idea what they’re looking for. There are competitions each week which give the winners a chance to take their person of choice on a romantic getaway date. The rest of the housemates who were not on the date that day have the opportunity to vote one of the date pairs into the “Truth Booth”, where it is revealed whether or not they are a match. If they aren’t, they get to continue searching for their match. However, if they are proven to be a perfect match, they must leave the house as a couple and enter the fantasy suite for the remainder of the season. At the end of each week, there is a match-up ceremony (switching back and forth from women’s choice to men’s choice) where each person picks someone to sit with who they think could be their match. They each “lock in” as a couple and the number of perfect matches sitting together is revealed, but not who those matches are. At the tenth match up ceremony, if all ten couples sitting together are the correct pairings, the house will collectively win $1,000,000. The puzzle-solving and strategy that plays along with the emotional aspect really makes this show an exhilarating work of art.
The most interesting part is that, no matter how simple the contestants think it will be to find their match, they soon find out that they could easily fall in love with anyone in the house. The couples switch so frequently that it’s nearly impossible to keep track of who is interested in who on any given day. Some strong bonds form within an hour of meeting each other but after being deemed a no-match, they are forced to mingle with the other housemates, despite their lack of interest in doing so. This causes a lot more tension and drama than you could even imagine and, not surprisingly, shows just how territorial human beings can be. I guess you could say I’m intrigued by these kinds of social experiment game shows (especially dating shows), and watching these people fall so deeply for more than one person in a span of just a few weeks makes you wonder what it is about seclusion that makes sparks fly so easily.
You see it in almost every dating show; the “paradise” where the contestants reside that makes it all the more special once they finally profess their love for each other. Some might say that this type of environment is setting these couples up for total disaster come the end of the show, and producers might say it’s actually a beautiful, romantic way to build a relationship. However, the one obvious fact is that sticking a group of men and women on an island will sure as hell stir up some natural, cringe-worthy moments to entertain those watching at home.