I ‘m obsessed with dating shows. There. I said it. I’m not talking about the typical shows that everybody else in America loves, like “The Bachelorette,” “Joe Millionaire” and “American Idol” (although I watch these also).

Paul Wong
Jeff Phillips

The games that I can’t stop watching are the aforementioned shows’ raunchier, trailer park cousins: midday dating shows.

Shows like “Elimidate,” “The 5th Wheel,” “Blind Date” and “Change of Heart” all have more hot tubs, more drunkenness and, best of all, more embarrassment for the contestants then any of the primetime shows.

They make Monday night’s slurping scene from “Joe Millionaire” look like child’s play. Plus, they don’t have to get married at the end, so there is no tinge of guilt that you are watching somebody ruin their life – that sort of thing is only good in small doses.

What’s best is that they combine to make midday television watchable. As a second semester senior on Injured Reserve, I have a fair amount of time on my hands. Specifically, in the time between waking up at noon and “The Simpsons.”

Before the dating show explosion, your best hope for midday entertainment was to catch “Son in Law” on a Showtime – but not anymore. Now you can tune into the WB (channel 20) from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. for “Blind Date” and “The 5th Wheel,” then find something to do for an hour while “Street Smarts” inexplicably finds its way on T.V.

(Side note: I can’t believe that this show is on not once, but twice! They took a poor premise of asking idiots questions like, “What is a car?” and “How many fingers am I holding up?” and drove it into the ground. It’s like “Celebrity Jeopardy,” except with real people. We all know there are idiots out there and if they aren’t making out with each other, then I’m not watching.)

At 2 p.m. you can switch to WGN (channel 26) where you will enjoy another hour-and-a-half as “Elimidate,” “The 5th Wheel” and “Change of Heart” are played back-to-back-to-back. Then the block ends with a whimper with again, “Street Smarts.”

I think what makes these shows so attractive is that each of them takes the same basic idea of getting people blitzed in awkward dating situations and following them around with cameras and put its own spin on it.

Whether it is forcing people to compete for attention amongst a group of four or installing a 15-minute room (similar to seven minutes of heaven in the closet of your youth) the shows are kept fresh. That isn’t to say that everybody doesn’t steal ideas from everybody, but there is enough of a difference to make sure viewesr stay tuned until “Street Smarts.”

So if you are hot, single and are planning on being in the New York or Los Angeles area and are thirsting for the spotlight, I will catch you up to speed with what show you should be on, what you should expect and how you should act.

In “Elimidate,” a single guy or girl has the choice of four other people of the opposite sex and must decide on one by the end of the night. It’s like “The Bachelor” on speed.

If you are one of the group of four, make sure you get noticed. For example, consider being better looking that everyone else.

If you are the decider, immediately get rid of the conservative one that says they don’t kiss on the first date or don’t drink too much or whatever. They have no business being on the show and it’s just bad television. Also, after every round, make sure you say, “The name of the game is Elimidate.” This apparently lessens the blow.

For “The 5th Wheel,” two couples are initially set up on a date and get to know each other over the course of the day, and then a fifth person is added to the mix – who is always better looking – hence “The 5th Wheel.”

Then at the end, everybody’s choices are revealed. If you are on this show, and the fifth wheel is the same sex as you, you need to be the fifth wheel.

If you are not the fifth wheel, your best hope is to pick up the person the fifth wheel doesn’t choose. Otherwise, you will be left talking to the camera at the end, saying things like, “I didn’t like either one anyway, so I don’t care,” or worse, “They don’t know what they are missing.”

In “Change of Heart,” a formerly happy couple goes on the show to test the strength of its relationship via dating other people in front of television cameras. The couples rarely stay together because one of the pair almost always mess around a little too much for the other. The one nugget of advice I can give is to beware of the Datecam.

The Datecam knows all and sees all. And if you think you are getting away with something you will think you are in the clear until the Datecam reveals some juicy bit at the end. For us at home, this is great.

For “Blind Date,” I really don’t know what to say. As far as I can tell, it is impossible to avoid the ridicule of clever editing and animated overlays. Better stay at home for this one. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that it is better to laugh at someone than have someone laugh at you.

If you decide to appear on a show, you’ve been warned. If you decide to stay at home and waste your day, grab a seat, because “Street Smarts” is almost over.

– Jeff Phillips would like someone to send him the “The Blind Date Guide to Dating,” in bookstores now. He can be reached at jpphilli@umich.edu.

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