God, it must be good to be Chris Hardwick these days.
I mean, Chris friggin’ Hardwick, I don’t know what deal he made to become one of the busiest men in the entertainment industry. Hosting Comedy Central’s @midnight since 2013, hosting AMC’s Talking Dead franchise since 2011, currently hosting NBC’s The Wall, chief executive officers of The Nerdist, he owns a share of friggin’ Legendary Pictures for god’s sake, the dude is all over the place nowadays.
But to those of us who grew up in the ’90s, we never ever thought in a million years that the host of Singled Out would become this personality that does so much more, he gives Steve Harvey a run for his money.
With that said, let’s talk about Singled Out:
Singled Out is a dating game show that ran on MTV from 1995 to 1998. Each episode featured a group of 50 men and a group of 50 women competing for a date with one main contestant of the opposite sex.
The original hosts were Chris Hardwick and Jenny McCarthy. When McCarthy left the show in early 1997 to star in her own sitcom, Jenny, MTV hired Carmen Electra to replace her for the last season and a half.
Each game began with one main contestant, the “Picker”, being escorted onto the set blindfolded in front of the 50 potential dates in the “Dating Pool” while the announcer described him/her. The Picker was then led to a seat facing away from the Dating Pool and further divided from the potential dates by a wall.
The Picker was presented with a board showing six categories, which ranged from physical attributes to preferences in love-making to leisure activities. They generally were expressed in a humorous style, often with various pop-culture references. After choosing a category, two or three choices were listed (for example, a category on hair might be divided into blonde, brunette, and redhead), and the Picker was asked to eliminate one of the choices. After eliminating a choice, all the contestants who fit that choice left the Dating Pool, in view of the Picker. This process was repeated until five to eight potentials were left, at which point they advanced to the next round.
In the third season, a Golden Ticket was introduced, which allowed the Picker to save one eliminated player as he or she walked in front of him on the way out of the studio. This contestant automatically advanced to the semifinals. For episodes taped outside, the “Golden Ticket” was replaced with a Golden Lifesaver, with the same rules.
At that point, the Picker asked a series of questions which ranged from Dating Game–style questions (example, “if you had me alone in a limousine for three hours, what would you do to me?”) to stunt-oriented questions (example, hitting a paddle ball a number of times, with the female host relaying the potential date’s performance to the Picker). If the Picker was satisfied with the answer or performance, he or she would “keep” the contestant, advancing them to the final round; if the Picker was not satisfied, he or she would “dump” the contestant, eliminating him or her from further play. “Dumped” contestants were not shown to the Picker as in the first round, but were instead marked with some sort of prop, such as a toilet seat around the neck, a bag with a sad face on it on the male player’s head, or a pageant sash labeled “Dumped”. This round continued either until three contestants were “kept,” or all but three had been “dumped.” If the potential date received the golden ticket, then sometimes the host would show him or her to the picker.
The wall was removed from behind the Picker to reveal a walkway with several spaces behind him or her. The three finalists started on the back step, and were asked a series of two-choice questions. Each time a contestant’s answer matched the Picker’s, the player advanced one space on the walkway (occasionally, a question might be worth two steps); the first player to make it to the circle on which the Picker was sitting won a date with the Picker. In case of a tie, a final question was asked to the tying contestants, such as “How many girls did (Picker’s name) say he dated last year?”; the contestant who guessed the closest without going over won the date.
After a couple had been made, the two contestants were placed back-to-back while Hardwick read a description of the winning player to the Picker; the contestants were then turned around to meet each other for the first time, and their trip and prizes were described to them by the announcer.
Two games were played per show, first with a woman picking from 50 single men, then with a man picking from 50 single women.
Besides the hosts, the show also had mascot characters. The most prominent character was a scruffy, cigar-smoking cupid known as “Bob the Angel”, who would sometimes appear in a series of vignettes with Hardwick and McCarthy. Bob would be joined by a wife, Roberta, and a son, Little Bob. Other characters included Fidel Castro, or an evangelist. These characters would often interact with the contestants during the “Keep ‘Em or Dump ‘Em” round, such as one male contestant being challenged to a game of tetherball against Castro. On rare occasions celebrities would appear. A female Picker claimed she was a Mel Torme fan and challenged a contestant to sing like him, only to have the real Torme come and judge his work.
Like with Studs, this was kind of a fun little twist to the classic dating show formula, I just love the idea that one person can get rid of so many people of the opposite sex by a specific type of person they are looking for, it’s amusing, it’s a silly idea but a very creative one and to come from MTV of all places, this was back when MTV said “look, we’re not gonna treat people like idiots with our non music programming, we’re actually going to entertain you.” Unlike the shitty shows MTV plasters us with today.
The most interesting aspect of watching this show nowadays is to watch Chris Hardwick evolve from this dude with floppy hair to one of the hardest working people in Hollywood, it’s amazing to believe what the 17 year span between this show and @midnight will do to somebody.
And then, you have the co-hosts and I gotta be honest, Jenny McCarthy did kind of get on my nerves looking back at some of these older clips again, I mean, by god, she tries but she very rarely made me laugh as much as the show made it out to be but I know a lot of people liked her on there. Personally, I liked Carmen Electra when she came on, she was the one that brought a lot of charm and personality to the show and she had the better chemistry with Hardwick to me:
Like with Studs, there were early appearances by future celebrities, one of the biggest ones was Stacy Ferguson, better known as Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas:
And even Jennifer Love Hewitt, right in the middle of Party Of Five’s success:
They even did a one-off episode where a gay guy came on the show as a contestant, really interesting for the timeperiod, you didn’t really see a lot of shows do this at the time:
Singled Out was an interesting twist on the dating show genre, it filled the void left over by Studs and gave it that MTV vibe to it of let’s just go nuts and have fun, that’s what this show, let’s just go nuts and have fun and this show was definitely that.
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