When the Loving Gets Tough…

When the Loving Gets Tough

Tough Love, a new reality series on VH1, works hard to reinforce negative stereotypes about single people.

Steve Ward, professional matchmaker, stars in Tough Love.
VH1 reality television should be a genre of its own. Find the trashiest, most mentally unstable cast members, put them in a vodka-soaked mansion in the Hollywood Hills, and let the reality TV magic unfold. Tough Love, VH1’s latest installment of campy brilliance, delivers on all of the infamous tearful breakdowns and steamy hook-ups, but with the mission of finding that “one true love.”

The show is hosted by what VH1 promotes as the “cocky” and “brutally honest” matchmaker, Steven Ward, with guest appearances by his mother, Joann Ward. (Yes, that’s right: his mother.) The pair own a matchmaking service called Master Matchmakers and have extended their find-your-true-love empire nationwide with their new reality show. Ward coaches Tough Love’s hopelessly undateable women so they can correct their pathetic behavior and finally catch a man.

Like mother, like son: Steve Ward and his mother, Joann
The eight women under Ward’s tutelage experience more of a therapy boot camp than a traditional reality show competition. The girls must participate in romance-focused exercises and only compete to win the admiration of Ward for exuding his dating do’s.

Now in its second season, Tough Love has explored many of the faux pas that women spring on their dates ― blunders that Ward says are deal breakers for men. These include saying the “m” word (marriage) early on, being too self-conscious and insecure, or having more pets than sanely possible. In each episode, Ward attempts to match the women with dateable hunks, but fuels the audience’s delight by forcing the girls into uncomfortable situations like beauty pageants or speed dating.

One of the contestants on a Ward approved date
While the hard-hitting advice is served up with the usual tasteless, profanity-laced girl-fights, the show does offer a bit more than other dating reality shows. Instead of an Ivy League stud choosing between 12 pristine beauties, the show offers insight into problems some women face in the dating arena. Ward is genuine with his “he’s just not that into you” advice, whether or not the women are ready to accept his version of the truth.

Tough Love would almost make the grade, at least in a guilty pleasure kind of way, if it weren’t for the desperation the women express when talking about their urgent desire to find a man. A Singular woman would measure Ward’s advice against their own wisdom – taking what they agree with and leaving the rest behind, and certainly not making marriage the “golden ring” around which their entire life is focused.

Bottom line, if it wasn’t for all the desperate-to-be married chatter, Tough Love could be one of those shows you love to watch – even though you’d never admit it.

VH1’s Tough Love — Sundays at 9 p.m.

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