In the history of television, there are shows that become so remembered that they are iconic, part of our culture’s constant obsession with its own nostalgia. And then there are the novelties, those shows that are legitimately popular but after their time are really only remembered by people like me who have the strange ability to remember the most random crap from childhood yet who also have to keep their keys in the same bowl every night lest they forget where they are. I can think of no show that helps epitomize the flash-in-the-pan novelty hit than the early 1990s syndicated dating game show, Studs.
Created by Fox television studios and airing from 1991-1993, Studs was a show very similar to The Dating Game or Love Connection, but instead of the kitschiness of the former and the smoothness of the latter (and don’t deny it, Chuck Woolery was Lando smooth with his “Back in 2 and 2”), it had a “Fox Attitude”–meaning it was a lot more in-your-face and raunchy. Well, as in-your-face and raunchy as a syndicated dating show could be. Hosted by Mark DeCarlo, a guy who looked like everyone’s wingman and who had a perpetual look of “Can you believe they pay me for this” on his face, the show had two members of one gender go out with two members of another gender (in the case of the episode I watched for this show, it was two guys going out with three girls). After a cold opening, Mark would introduce the trio to the audience–including a running gag where he would say “Audience” and the crowd would yell, “WHAT?!”–before bringing out the two suitors.
Now, while there were episodes–especially in the later seasons–that featured people who were clearly a little older, most of the contestants on Studs were in their twenties, which is why the show had that “Fox Attitude” because it was obviously trying to appeal to twenty-somethings and a twenty-something audience would probably want to see people they found attractive, even if this was the “Eighties Hangover” part of the 1990s, as evidenced by the fact that you could have Kelly Kapowski on one part of the couch and Valerie Malone sitting right next to her.
In fact, the show was very 1990s, as I noticed when I checked out the opening titles as well as the set. The color palette and designs looked like they were ripped off from a bad 1990 R&B video where everything was just blocky and chunky. And honestly, nowhere but 1991 would a guy get away with wearing a vest and nothing else as a “shirt.”
Anyway, so Mark would do the introductions–what do you ladies like in a man–while the audience (who was obviously imported from a taping of Married … With Children) would hoot and holler. He’d bring the other contestants out and do the same, which is pretty standard for this type of show. Then, the show would get into what it was known for, which was the multiple choice quiz. The guys would hear statements about what happened on the date and if they figured out what girl said what, the guy would win a stuffed heart. The guy who got the most hearts would win. Pretty standard, right? Well, that is, until they actually got to the questions.
You see, since this was a show with “Fox Attitude,” Studs didn’t simply ask the guys and girls where they went to dinner, but they insinuated that every single one of them engaged in several acts of carnal knowledge that are illegal in most Bible belt states. Mark always started with questions about first impressions (mostly appearance based) and we’d get stuff like “He looked like a puffed-up Ken doll” or “All he had to do was say my name and I melted” (yunno, because the guy had an accent), but eventually we got to the actual date and instead of being all censor-friendly, the statements were full of innuendo or flat out “sexy.”
“He showed me what it means to be a woman.”
“It was all I could do to keep from screaming out loud.”
“My mouth opened wide and my tongue took over.”
Now, I don’t think that I would have found any of this talk sexy or remotely risque when I was in my twenties. But when I was watching this on a weekday afternoon as a fourteen-year-old? Oh hell yes. My friends and I used to wonder how many of the contestants actually did it, and thought that the show was completely awesome because everything was a sex reference.
Studs lasted two years, but I don’t even know if I watched it beyond six months or a year before I got bored with it, although that was long enough to get the brilliant “Amish Studs” parody courtesy of The Ben Stiller Show. But I don’t think it was ever meant to be more than a novelty anyway, and the same can be said for Singled Out, Blind Date, and whatever shows have come out in the last couple of decades. They last long enough to cure boredom but eventually, like most of television, is quickly forgotten.
You can watch an episode, courtesy of YouTube, below: