MTV has upped its reality game at times with provocative concepts like “Catfish,” which is why this familiar me-too dating show, hyperbolically billed as an “ambitious social experiment,” feels so tired and stale. “Are You the One?” is a series for people who still yearn to feel superior to somebody after “The Bachelor” signs off, employing junk science in the service of a concept seemingly designed to ensure the participants don’t abscond with the potential $1-million prize. Simply put, only those who are truly promiscuous in their appetite for such programming will want to bother committing to this.
Twenty singles are brought together in Kauai, and told the producers have used matchmaking techniques (described as a “unique dating algorithm”) to find someone – also in the group – with whom they are truly compatible. “Your perfect match is here,” host Ryan Devlin tells them.
Ah, but here’s the catch: All the players must correctly choose the person designated for them in order to earn the cash, which the entire group will share. Each week they can put one couple through a truth test to see if they’re really meant to be, before a closing ceremony (given the venue, leis, if not lays, really ought to be involved) in which the singles try to successfully pair off – like Noah’s Ark, only with less suspense.
Although the players helpfully suggest they are lousy at finding a soul mate and thus in need of third-party help, the whole premise appears slightly flawed, letting the computer dictate who belongs with whom despite whatever attraction or connection might be present. Seriously, who are you going to trust, a faceless artificial construct or your own lying eyes?
As for the requisite tricks of the trade, there are win-a-date challenges, night-vision sexual grappling and in-your-face shouting matches virtually from the get-go, with teases of a whole lot more in the obligatory “this season on” clip.
About the best one can say for “Are You the One?” is the series comes with its own ready-made hashtag/license plate (RUT1), although even that looks telling. Because for all the strides MTV has made, this is the sort of show that makes the network look like it’s stuck in a rut. And nobody should need an elaborate algorithm to figure that out.