Recently, I’ve been binging Ainori: African Journey on Netflix. I don’t watch many reality dating shows, but Ainori is one of my favourites. It may not have a filmic quality, and it may be cheaply produced, but I feel at the heart of it are the real stories of real people, and that’s more valuable than the artificial reality of Western dating shows.
I’m not saying that Ainori is 100% realistic, but it also seems less inclined to manufacture drama, than Western shows, which seems more inclined to sensationalise everything.
Anyway, it got me thinking: if I were pitch a Western dating show, whether or not it eventually went to camera, what would it be?
I’d probably start from Ainori. Of course, a travelling dating show is a novel idea, and not something the West ever seems to do, but it could be fun. In Ainori, a lot of meaningful stories seem to be drawn from local attractions, so I could do something from that angle. I also like that the stars are ordinary people, with as many flaws as positive attributes.
On the other hand, the setup for Ainori is based around a very Japanese-specific cultural practice: the love confession. I feel like not being able to express that you like someone until you leave the show would be a hindrance in a Western show, so I’d probably find an alternative setup. I also don’t like the fact that once they leave the show, they never get to see each other again. Not even as friends.
Setting the show in a fixed but interesting setting could be an idea. Bachelor in Paradise, while it’s not a show I enjoy, could provide some ideas. It’s set in a tropical setting that I could use, and though it’s much more luxurious than Ainori, I’m sure I could find an appealing middle ground.
The thing I really hate about Bachelor in Paradise are the stars. They’re flawlessly beautiful, while also being petty, shallow, and spoiled. I’d much rather go the Ainori route, and make the stars of my show go unplugged than give them every comfort like Bachelor does. This discomfort, I believe, would force the stars to really get to know each other on a more personal level, rather than exploiting some gimmick. But to go completely low budget would probably turn viewers off.
I would also like a more diverse cast of characters. That’s where another dating show comes in, MTV’s Are You The One? This show wasn’t very good in terms of its setup, as it basically forced stars into specific couples rather than letting them choose. However, in terms of showing sexual diversity and gender diversity, season 8 of this show had it. And that is something great which I would love to see more in dating shows.
Even Ainori didn’t have LGBT people in it, because it is essentially a straight show, and in Japan, they’re far less open about showing LGBT people on TV than we’ve become in the West within the last few decades. So I would want to take advantage of that if I ever got the chance.
So, here’s the pitch:
9 (3 guys, 3 girls, 3 enbies) sexually fluid and gender diverse contestants are put in some exotic locale, say Bali. They are set up in a getaway house. This acts as a base, from which they go on adventures together. Here, they are off the grid, and have only each other for entertainment.
These adventures start as group activities, to explore and learn about the locale. After having gotten to know each other at the house, they compete in games for the chance of one-on-one dates. There are two winners for each game. Winners get to choose a date mate from the group. There are also no eliminations in this show. Couples leave once they both decide they’ve found love.
When a couple leaves, the group moves to a new locale, say Vietnam, and two new people are introduced. Individuals can leave anytime. The process continues until the end of the season. After the season concludes, there would also be a reunion episode.
So basically, it’s Ainori meets Amazing Race, but it’s exclusively for LGBT people. And the reason why I want it to be only for queer people, is that there are no queer dating shows on Australian TV; this would be the first. So that would be a selling point. I want to give queer people everything, and this show would be part of that.
Well, wasn’t that a fun exercise?
* In retrospect, I should also add that the countries would have to be LGBT-friendly. Alternately, it could be a cross-country trip.