LOS ANGELES -- Now that twentysomething ensemble dramas are out, here's the networks' latest plan to get young viewers: slavishly imitate MTV.
Viewers tuned to ABC (WJZ, Channel 13) tonight at 8:30 are going to think they channel-surfed onto MTV by mistake when they see "Street Match."
"Street Match" is a reality show that puts a host and camera crew out on the streets to find single men and women and set them up with each other for dates. The camera crew then follows the newly introduced couples on their dates to see how they go. It's a knockoff of MTV's "The Real World," if you needed me to tell you.
Tonight, the city is New York. First up is a kind of shy guy named Travis. He's a twentysomething drama student from Kentucky.
Travis is walking down the street on the way to class one day, when, bang, into his life walks host Ricky Paull Goldin.
Ricky Paull, as he calls himself, is a real piece of work. He makes Chuck Woolery look like a class act. Ricky Paull is proof that there will be no shortage of smarmy game-show hosts when Generation X comes of age, in case you were worried about it.
Anyway, Ricky Paull tells Travis to pick out any woman on the street he would like to meet but doesn't have the nerve to walk up to by himself. After some foot-shuffling, Travis points to Emmie, a twentysomething shoe model and waitress who's walking her dog. And, boom, now Ricky Paull's got the two of them set up for a date -- Travis and Emmie, that is, not the dog.
The good news is that Ricky Paull doesn't go along on the date. And, once you cut Ricky Paull out of the picture, "Street Match" becomes a fascinating show.
The camera takes us into the bathrooms of Emmie and Travis as they get ready for their dates. Zoom, there's a tight shot of Travis' underarm as he applies deodorant.
In fact, the camera, in the visual style of MTV, is bouncing all over the place, as hyperactive as a 16-year-old athlete in English class at 2:55 p.m.
(That's not a criticism, either. One of the reasons MTV is so successful is that it developed a visual style that reflected the sensibilities of its audience.)
The date makes for great viewing. It's a bomb. Emmie hates Travis. She thinks he's a wimp. He thinks she should be dating someone from the Addams Family, with all the mascara and black leather she wears.
There's another date in tonight's show that goes much better for the couple and ends in what baby boomers call a soul kiss.
Prognosis: If they get rid of Ricky Paull, I'll be back next week and the week after.
P.S. I think Emmie's right about Travis.