Spouse House is a new reality dating TV show on TLC, first aired last Sunday. Is it merely another in America’s long-term love-affair with all things ‘reality’? It’s hard to say—after all, there’s only been one episode. But from what I’ve seen, it seems unlikely. Sure, it may boast some of the common tropes associated with reality dating shows, such as young, attractive women and well-muscled men with full heads of hair, but unlike other dating shows I’ve seen (which, admittedly, are very few), the contestants on Spouse House are there for one reason only: Marriage. A good thing, too, because anyone not actively searching for a spouse will be ceremoniously evicted.
The contestants come from variegated backgrounds with unique personal, professional and family histories, but the one thing they all share is the desire, the need, to marry. The results are a no-holds-barred blitzkrieg of emotional honesty, trepidation, and comic, awkward, blundering moments genuinely human. And while the overly contrived or manipulated 'reality' so often associated with reality programming is largely absent, it still makes for entertaining television. Perhaps because of this? Oh, and for all you drama-junkies out there, don't worry—the promise of catty remarks and macho rivalries loom seductively.
Without further ado, here are five reasons you should watch Spouse House on TLC:
1- Everybody Wants To Get Married
This reason may seem unremarkable at a glance, so, please, keep reading. It’s safe to assume that the vast majority of people eventually want to get married, but on Spouse House, the contestants have put their busy lives on hold in pursuit of this singular goal, regardless of the cost. A far cry from the post-college frat house bacchanalia of its kindred shows, the participants on Spouse House are young professionals with taxing lives and demanding careers. They put their love lives on hold in order to focus on their professional lives, creating an interesting social dynamic: They are determined to leave the bullshit and the baggage of the contemporary dating scene behind. The result is a group of highly-focused, single-minded people all searching for the same thing, and doing so in wildly different ways. Tempers flare in the face of brutal honesty; no quarter is given. Each knows exactly what he or she wants.
2- Intriguing Personality Types
Similarly to internet dating sites such as Match.com or eHarmony, relationship experts Dr. Isaiah Pickens and Christine Hassler employed scientific analysis during the casting process. Furthermore, the chosen contestants are all from Chicago, fostering an immediate sense of familiarity between the cast. The cynic in all of us wants to scoff at the idea—the ability to quantify and calculate love seems inherently infeasible. Whether or not that’s the case, it does provide for an intriguing clash of personality types.
Like Ashley Lauren and Tom: Both have large personalities and even larger ambitions, seeking to form an elite, Chicago super-power-couple. And that's only a scratch on the surface. Chris and Brianne also share a peculiar commonality in that they both find it unduly difficult not to cry during TV shows and commercials.
The question here is one of magnetic antiquity: Do opposites attract? Given the accelerated time-frame of the show, and its almost too-perfectly orchestrated matching strategy, the first episode would indicate otherwise. So far, the contestants have naturally gravitated toward those who share common interests, goals, ideologies, etc. But will Tom and Ashley’s larger-than-life personalities prove too stubborn and immovable to allow the give-and-take necessary for a successful relationship to gain a foothold? Will Chris and Brianne find it difficult to follow the important plot points of a TV show due to their simultaneous sobbing? No idea. But some of these common personality traits are a little too suspicious to be coincidental...
3- The Contestants Are Average, Everyday People…
Who also just happen to be particularly photogenic. Once you’ve looked beyond this little physical fact (provided that you can), it becomes glaringly obvious that they really are just regular men and women, replete with their own set of vulnerabilities, insecurities, and awkward, embarrassing moments at times so gut-wrenching as to be unequivocally humanizing—a quality I find lacking in other reality dating shows. Like when Tom and Kelli Jo realized they had dated, albeit briefly, some ten years earlier, and when Tom said to Kelli Jo, “You have a very attractive face. I like looking at your face, it’s very nice.” A cheesier statement I don’t think I’ve ever heard. Corny, screwy, a little off-beat… But also endearing, a man putting himself out there, baring himself before the world (and on national television, no less). It’s honest, intimate, and embarrassing—in other words, it’s real. Whether borne from confidence or unfettered emotion, it takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there, even privately. It’s no easy task, and to do so on broadcast television takes a certain type of fortitude I’ll be the first to admit I lack.
4- It Has The Potential To Be More Than Others Of Its Ilk
And while it's too early to come to an informed conclusion, simply by shedding the bullshit that accompanies dating in the modern world, Spouse House could be forging a new path for reality dating shows that don’t rely (solely) on gimmicks and beaten-bloody clichés to attract an audience. By gathering a group of men and women with stable careers and foreseeable futures, much of the vapid viciousness and immature bruhaha endemic to the reality-dating-show template is cast aside in favor of portraying real people with real problems in real life. Even if that ‘real life’ is a beach-house in Malibu…
These are not people out for their 15 minutes of fame; whatever else you may think, they are there for one reason: to get married. Undoubtedly a refreshing take on the drama-fueled faux-reality shows of the past, the present, and, presumably, the future. So if you’re looking for a show that entertains without sacrificing its mission, Spouse House may be just what you’re looking for.
5- Guilty Pleasure
Guilty pleasure—a staple of American life and, arguably, the primary reason reality television has garnered the unbridled, cult-like following it has enjoyed over the past couple of decades. There’s an infinite number of reasons why people love reality television. I won’t regale you with my heavy-handed, aphoristic, pseudo-psychological hypotheses (given that they are, primarily, 'unfounded' speculations conceived by me, in the privacy of my own mind). In many ways, though, they collectively mirror our own experiences in a microcosmic, if somewhat exaggerated, way. And, I mean, what’s more entertaining than watching a group of people—a group of strangers—attempt to traverse the muck-and-mire of love and marriage that spans a mere eight weeks?
I’ll tell you:
The fact that marriage hangs like an axe just above their heads.
Borderline tyrannical in its mission, Spouse House necessitates that the participants not only be willing to marry, but that they actively seek out marriage. Or lose their spot in the house. Which means all that is left to say is prepare yourself for a tumultuous crash-course in love as the contestants are forced to be decisive, honest, and unrelenting. Watch as they weigh options—options they would normally have days, weeks, months to consider—in the blink of an eye. It's a race to find true love amidst close-quartered competitors and quarantine, before they’re chucked back into their bustling lives where life’s distractions often seem to work contrarily, even malevolently, against love and happiness and marriage.
And if my arguments failed to adequately convince you that this is a reality dating show worth watching, then consider the happy little fact that Kinda Kind’s very own creative visionary and pioneer of internet-kindness, Ashley Lauren Dickinson, is one of the fourteen contestants—crazy, I know! (Kinda Kind’s homepage will be keeping a tally of every time Ashley cries on the show—so keep an eye out.)
Kinda Kind will be updated weekly on the quirky happenings of Spouse House, and we (highly) suggest you watch the show. Meet the cast and watch the full first episode for free on TLC’s website.
Follow the link in the previous sentence and watch it for yourself, that way you don’t have to take my word for it. And do it quick, because episode 2 airs tonight at 10/9 Central on TLC!