'The Player' offers diversity -- and a lot of stupidity
Reality-romance show is as dumb as they come
August 3, 2004
BY MIKE DUFFY
FREE PRESS TV CRITIC
Somewhere in the great beyond of show business bunkum and blarney, P.T. Barnum is cackling about that new American circus maximus of reality TV.
ONE STAR out of 4 stars
9 p.m. Wednesday, UPN
To paraphrase the legendary Barnum: "There's a reality TV sucker born every minute."
No, not you the humble viewer, the folks sitting at home gawking.
We're speaking of the fools who actually agree to participate in the human voyeurism parade of dating game and silly romantic relationship shows like "The Bachelor," "Average Joe," "For Love or Money" and . . .
Stop the tabloid presses! I believe we've found the one show that dares to present the biggest collection of American male morons to ever take part in a ticky- tacky TV date fest.
Get ready to scream at your TV screens, here comes "The Player."
This new UPN carnival of silly human behavior -- premiering at 9 p.m. Tuesday nationally and at 9 p.m. Wednesday in Detroit -- follows sexy, love-seeking Miami model Dawn as she sorts through a posse of dim-bulb, exhibitionist beefcake buddies to find her romantic soul mate.
"She's looking for one guy who is willing to give up his player ways for her," gushes the announcer as "The Player" opens for business at a sun-splashed mansion in South Beach. Yes, we're in the addled bling-bling zone of wretched entertainment excess where "the guys can be kicked to the curb whenever the mood strikes."
For you see, the slinky Dawn will be assisted in the cosmic love search by her good friends and sexy Florida pals Ananda and Jinelle.
What sets "The Player" apart -- other than the incredible, dithering inanity of the whole silly show -- is the racial and ethnic diversity of the men who are shamelessly vying for Dawn's romantic favor.
Dawn is white, like most of the people who pick a designated love mate on these shows. But eight of the 13 men she's choosing from are either African American or Latino.
So give "The Player" a gold star for diversity. Most dating and relationship shows rarely have more than a token minority contestant or two. And those one or two people of color are often quickly eliminated.
Alas, "The Player" also wins exceptionally high marks for stupidity and vapidity. One egregious example:
"I'm tan, tall, dark, handsome. That whole deal," boasts Bryan, a Miami club promoter. "I've been told I give off this vibe. This mysterious aura."
Yeah, Bryan, it's the mysteriously shallow aura of arrogant egocentricity.
But Bryan hasn't cornered the market on self-absorbed macho twaddle by a long shot with this band of young Narcissus lover boys.
And on tonight's premiere episode -- before Dawn selects five of the guys to go club hopping on a group date in South Beach -- each of the men struts his superficial stuff when competing in a contest to impress Miss Pretty Thing.
When each is given 45 seconds to do his freestyle personality riff, one guy does an impromptu striptease, one does a back flip into the mansion's swimming pool and several try to display their rapping love rhymes or hip-hop moves.
Where's Chuck Barris when you really need him?
It's "The Dating Game Gong Show of Immature Lovers." If only.
In the crazy crass world of reality TV roulette, you never know what's going to strike the public's fancy. And "The Player" could just be shamelessly trashy enough to connect.
But let's return to rocket scientist of romance Dawn for final words of dating game advice: "If they fall for me, I'm the player," notes Dawn sagely. "If I fall for them, I'm being played."
And by sitting there on our couches watching, I guess you could say we're all being played.