Power coupling makes `Cruise' sea-sickening

Preview: Who's the coolest in the `Love Cruise' equation? It takes high-school algebra to figure that one out.

Fall TV 2001

September 11, 2001|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

"Ladies, when I blow my whistle, you're going to approach the man you would most like to couple with for the next 48 hours."

That's the opening instruction to the eight women contestants on Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage, yet another reality series exploiting the emotional vulnerabilities of young adults with good bodies who don't seem to have the brains to know how to find a partner in more traditional, less public ways.

Trying to make it all seem glamorous, the show is set aboard a luxury sailboat in the Caribbean with 16 singles trying to be part of the last couple left standing. The winners get $200,000 and a trip around the world.

You know the cast: knuckleheads, narcissists, exhibitionists and poseurs. And, yes, they deliver the goods: cat fights, tearful rejection, verbal humiliation, preening, eyes-bugging-out rage, lots of flesh and, yes, as is almost always the case, the grainy, peeping-tom night lens that shows us couples crawling into bed together.

Two of the men are from Baltimore - Greg, a 26-year-old financial consultant, and Darin, a 24-year-old construction engineer.

During a press conference this summer, Mary-Ellis Bunim, who co-created the series for the Fox network with John Murray, objected to the characterization of contestants as knuckleheads, exhibitionists, narcissists and poseurs by saying, "What you are seeing on the show are people who are genuinely looking for love."

I include this because Bunim and Murray created MTV's The Real World, and, in the sorry landscape of television authorship these days, some people act like that makes them great artists. Love Cruise is not art nor does it have anything to do with love - at least not any definition of the word this side of the way it was used to describe the relationship between a nurse-looking-to-be-a-centerfold and a con man with a record of being physically abusive to women on another great Fox reality show, Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?

Love Cruise wastes little time getting nasty. Right after host Justin Gunn blows his "coupling" whistle for the eight women to make their choices, we have two men who each wind up being selected by three women.

One of the men not selected - an attorney who is the least buff of the male bodies - is interviewed about his feelings. "Everyone just ran from me like I was the Ebola virus," he says.

Then, it is the women's turn to be rejected, as the men who were selected by multiple women must choose among them. One of the women rejected by the man she selected is in tears during her post-rejection interview. She winds up with the attorney.

Each round ends with one couple - described in press materials as "the least enchanting" - being voted off the boat by the others and sent to a place the surviving shipmates call Loser Island. The man and woman most desired by the others at the end of the first round are referred to as the Power Couple. It's high school on the high seas.

The first power couple consists of 27-year-old screenwriter from Los Angeles given to multiple tattoos and really bad poetry, and a 27-year-old personal trainer whose surgically altered breasts seem to be the main topic of discussion in the early going. The first major cat fight is over her breasts.

Am I judging these contestants too harshly? I don't think so.

But I admit, in the end, it is hard to say which is more debased - the way these fools behave in front of the camera, or the fact that we watch.

Love Cruise

When Tonight at 9

Where WBFF (Channel 45)

In brief High school on the high seas

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