Do they really wanna marry 'Harry'?

Reality-show royalty, Trista and Ryan Sutter are back, on the new "Marriage Boot Camp."
Reality-show royalty, Trista and Ryan Sutter are back, on the new "Marriage Boot Camp."
Posted: May 21, 2014

* I WANNA MARRY 'HARRY.' 9 tonight, Fox 29.

IT'S BEEN more than 10 years since a construction worker/underwear model named Evan Marriott, posing as "Joe Millionaire," helped score record ratings for Fox, and the network's coming for America's daughters again.

The most gullible ones, anyway.

"I Wanna Marry 'Harry' " tonight introduces a dozen American women in their 20s to a bloke called "Sir," a (dyed) redhead who's more pauper than prince and whose resemblance to Prince William's playboy brother probably wouldn't fool anyone who grew up reading London's tabloids, much less someone whose background gives her the remotest chance of marrying into the royal family.

Not that it matters. If we've learned anything from "The Bachelor," it's that competition often trumps common sense, especially among those willing to move into a mansion and place themselves under 24-hour surveillance while "dating" the same person as all their housemates.

No wonder Harry poser Matt Hicks, after one group encounter, concludes that "American girls don't seem to have inside voices." They know what he may not: that in "reality" television, it's go big or go home, weeping, in the back of a limo.

Stand out from the crowd, though, and even 15 seconds of fame may be extended indefinitely:

*  "Bachelor" contestants who don't get (or don't want) the guy the first time may end up on "The Bachelorette" (which returned to ABC last night with "Bachelor" vet Andi Dorfman looking for a few better men than the loser she walked out on last season).

* If not, there's always "Dancing with the Stars," where Melissa Rycroft, spurned after "winning" "The Bachelor," was a contestant in Season 8 and went on to win the all-stars edition in Season 15.

* It's possible to become famous for little more than being famous. "I Wanna Marry 'Harry' " executive producer Ryan Seacrest isn't just the host of "American Idol." He's the producer responsible for unleashing the Kardashians on a wider world. Surely among the dozen enormously self-confident women vying for "Harry's" affection is one with a colorful - and acquisitive - enough family to capture the public's imagination once this royalty ruse has passed into memory?

* Couples who met on television, or opened their lives to cameras, can get help repairing their relationships on WE tv's "Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars" (9 p.m. Fridays, starting May 30), where Trista and Ryan Sutter will seek the help of relationship experts Jim and Elizabeth Carroll.

The "Bachelorette" duo, whose 2003 wedding, the franchise's first, was televised by ABC, will share the requisite mansion with Jennifer "JWoww" Farley ("Jersey Shore") and her fiance, Roger Matthews; Traci Braxton and Kevin Surratt ("Braxton Family Values"); Gretchen Rossi and Slade Smiley ("The Real Housewives of Orange County"); and Tanisha Thomas and Clive Muir ("Bad Girls Club").

If their noisy housemates don't put the Sutters' problems (whatever they are) in perspective, nothing will.

* TV counseling didn't work out? Bravo, home to all those surreal "Housewives," will be happy to oversee the division of assets.

"Untying the Knot" (10 p.m. Wednesdays, starting June 4) stars divorce lawyer and mediator Vikki Ziegler, who helps her rich and stubborn clients figure out who gets the apartment in Paris and whether that diamond necklace is worth the effort both sides are putting in to claiming it.

"When love turns to hate, couples turn to me," proclaims Ziegler, whose show should probably be required viewing for anyone, male or female, who dreams of marrying for money.

The first "Joe Millionaire," whose first-season finale drew an estimated 34.6 million viewers in 2003, seemed like a cynical exercise at the time (though not quite as cynical as Fox's "Temptation Island"). It premiered the same month as ABC's "The Bachelorette," which brought together Trista and Ryan, and made a thorough mockery of TV romance.

At this point, though, when mockery seems the only reason left to watch most dating shows, it's hard to imagine a fake "Harry" exciting much controversy. (It's not as if the real one hasn't been seen in a hot tub.)

We watch, if we watch at all, to see seemingly delusional women (or men) talk themselves into falling for people they've only just laid eyes on.

And to make fun of them on Twitter.

One show that might have more interest in making matches than headlines: GSN's "It Takes a Church" (9 p.m. Thursdays, starting June 5).

Conceived as a draw to viewers of the Game Show Network's popular quiz show, "The American Bible Challenge," "It Takes a Church" is hosted by singer Natalie Grant.

In each episode, members of a congregation are asked to help find a partner for an unmarried member, with the church's pastor helping to winnow down the candidates for a match. In the premiere, a 30-year-old engineer named Angela Morgan is wooed by both the men and the self-appointed matchmakers backing individual prospects.

It's still a game - there are elimination rounds and the church gets a donation in the name of the winning "matchmaker" - but it's also a glimpse into the lives of real people who actually seem serious about finding someone to love and to build a life with.

And there's not a hot tub in sight.


Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray

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