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The Undating Game

by Colin Lingle

There, on the dubba-dubba-WB, within shouting distance of Dawson's Creek, you can't help but notice a glistening, twitching sign that it's probably all over but the shouting. The latest spawn of Springer represents the end of a devolution that began with the Newlywed Game, self-deconstructed through various cornball match-making derivatives, and leaves us now with the ultimate relationship television: Change of Heart. Or, as it might as well be known, the Un-Dating Game.

Of course, it's really all about the concept. Under the hot lights and the scrutiny of a live TV audience, a couple's teetering relationship is dissected at its weak points by a smiling host. Then, in a particularly cunning plot twist, each person is provided with the antidote to his/her partner, a luscious babe or boytoy with the exact opposite of the character traits that have pushed them to the brink. Finally, in Act III (after the second commercial break), we find out if He and She want to stay together, cherishing what they have in a new light. Of course, this is where the stakes get really jacked up. It's payback time and we all know about payback.

Every permutation of the show's endgame -- they stay together, he bails, she bails, they both bail -- has its own complex set of theatrical imperatives. He deserves what he gets if he's going to walk around the house in nothing but shoes and a wristwatch. If she can't let go of this whole having babies thing, well, maybe he should go with the model who doesn't want to be tied down. Any result is, by definition, dramatic. Everyone has a different sense of who's the hero and who's the villain, but it's all gotta shake down in 22 minutes.

Short of developing a show where people who have broken up stay apart for good, we probably now have every stage of relationships represented in one media format or another. And it makes perfect sense, in a way. We love to watch. The people who are making deals these days are just finding new ways to package things. Coming soon, look for "Melrose LIVE," "COPS in Love (or Not)," and "World's Scariest Bad Decisions IV."

In the meantime, settle in with your sweetie and see how it's done.

Colin Lingle is not a global media conglomerate, but it's not for lack of trying.

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