It’s hard to find good things to say about “Conveyor Belt of Love,” but you have to give it credit for something: It mostly occupied the 58 minutes of ABC primetime following the premiere of “The Bachelor” on Monday (Jan. 4) night.
That, of course, raises a key question: Do we feel more annoyed at NBC for attempting to kill primetime with five nightly installments of “The Jay Leno Show” or with ABC for besmirching even a single hour of primetime with the one-off “Conveyor Belt of Love”?
Because as unfunny as Jay Leno is and as uninspired is his alleged attempts at entertainment tend to be, he’s never ended an episode with a 23-year-old mental patient (unconfirmed) ramming her tongue down the throat of a possibly-gay tanning parlor owner (partially confirmed, partially implied), while their pocket-sized dogs frolic at their feet, concluding with the immortal line, “I’m definitely going to go out with Johnny again, because he’s super-hot with all his clothes on.”
I’d go out on a limb and suggest that zero love matches were made on Monday’s “Conveyor of Love.” Since that also equals the total number of successful unions from “The Bachelor,” it might actually make a fitting pairing, if ratings happen to be good enough. Then again, picking up “Conveyor Belt of Love” and teaming it with “The Bachelor” would be tantamount to admitting that “The Bachelor” is a sham, since I watched the last 10 minutes of the “legitimate” show before the “gag” show and the women were identical.
[More on “Conveyor Belt of Love” after the break…]
“Conveyor Belt of Love” was only a one-off special for ABC, unless it was successful, in which case it appears to be a fairly easy franchise to rev up in short order. If tonight’s premiere cost more than $1000 bucks (including the leasing of space and equipment) or took more than 24 hours to produce and edit, somebody was getting ripped off.
The premise is simple and, dare I sarcastically say, elegant. Five women of questionable standards and questionable boobular veracity sit on a platform and watch as 30 men come rolling along on a conveyor belt. Each man has 60 seconds to make a first impression. The women have paddles reading “Interested” and “Not Interested” (because the “Yes” and “No” paddles might have made the show seem puerile). If the women are interested, they hold up the paddle reading “Interested,” if they’re not interested, the hold up the paddle reading “Not Interested.” If two women are interested in the same guy, the guy gets to choose, based upon bra size, shortness of skirt or, in one actual example, the answer to the timeless question “What’s your favorite number?” The women could choose as many guys as they wanted, with each new guy booting the old guy off the pedestal. Wait. No. Not pedestals. If a woman liked a guy, she put him in her box. The ladies could only have one guy at a time in her box, but she could entertain countless individual men in her box before being left with one
In the end, the couples went on the cheapest looking dates in television history — including a picnic, an ice cream stand and a closet somebody half-decorated as a Tiki Lounge.
Going again with the assumption that “Conveyor Belt of Love” had a budget resembling a junior high Casino Night, there’s no reason why the show shouldn’t succeed. It’s awful, but it’s also an easy distillation of the speed dating formula that’s popular around the country for Jewish singles and Jewish singles alike.
For each of the 30 men, the question was, “What can I do in 60 seconds to get into the pants of at least one of these romance-starved women?” The obvious answer, “Purchase them one pina colada apiece” was taken out of the equation, so they had to improvise. Some did magic. That didn’t work. Some attempted to sing and because women of a certain age all had formative experiences watching “The Heights,” that worked out pretty well. Leading with an Sean Connery impression — from shockingly single 44-year-old man — accomplished little, but Erich, a husky sommelier somehow parlayed a Chris Farley impression into further intimacies with Angelique, a 29-year-old from Boston, whose biological clock could be heard audibly ticking in the cavernous studio set. A himbo doing the Downward Dog found a lady love, as did a Rocky Horror reject Johnny Pride, who came out with only a Speedo and a dog named Rambo covering his shame. The Native American (“Native” was literally tattooed across his chest) who did a tribal dance couldn’t make it rain and the guy promising The Lazar Extravaganza got no takers.
The women weren’t to be taken any more seriously than the men.
Betsy, a 29-year-old committed Christian with a desire for a long-term relationship briefly looked like she was putting her money where her mouth was in selecting a 31-year-old virgin hesitant to give up his sacred flower. Then she ditched him for Lance, a fauxhawked singer-songwriter from Georgia and was subsequently shocked and disappointed that Lance wasn’t as mature and serious as what she was looking for. Betsy’s date at least yielded one of those great reality TV moments, when Lance declared that he wasn’t sure if he was ready for marriage or kids just yet, but he’d love to get contacted by an old ex-girlfriend and informed he had a 15-year-old son. At least Betsy recognized her error and was horrified.
Jenny, a 25-year-old belle from Knoxville began by saying she liked funny guys and didn’t care for pretty or a great bod. She briefly appeared to be serious, going with a 28-year-old sweater-vest-wearing performance artist and boldly declaring “I like Nerd-Hot.” Later, choosing between the actor and a skater-designer, she asked them both their favorite comics. Foolishly expecting that she wanted a real answer, the artist raved about his “Sandman” collection. He was replaced. Later, Jenny was considering John, a Jamie Walters wannabe who led with an awful song, she asked him for his favorite comic book. He replied that he was starting to get into “The Watchmen.” She replied that she loved “The Watchmen,” prompting horrified fans of “Watchmen” to sigh and decide they deserved each other.
The show’s true standout was Keiko, a 23-year-old who said up-front that she wasn’t interested in anything serious. And I get the impression that when Keiko reads the comics, she doesn’t just find “Doonsbury” too serious, she gets flummoxed by the darker implications of “Marmaduke.” Keiko threw up her “Not Interested” paddle whenever somebody mentioned college, having written a book or even having read a book. Keiko found her Golden Boy early when Johnny Pride appeared on stage and she basically threw up the vacancy signs over her eyes, except for when she was insulting the choices of her fellow ladies. I especially adored when Betsy took the virginal Travis and Keiko deadpanned, “Oh, Betsy. He’s perfect for you. You can just hold hands and eat ice cream and not kiss.”
Keiko was funny enough that I only wish her happiness, except that I fear “happiness” is probably too extreme an emotion for her to experience. So instead, I wish her only benign indifference.
Nobody else on the show was likable or human enough to even deserve best wishes that tepid. Well, except for sommelier Erich, who hopefully had a very good time with 95-percent-synthetic Angelique when he wasn’t listening to her probably fake Boston accent. It wasn’t a good Chris Farley impression, but if you find a woman willing go to bed with you for a Chris Farley impression that bad, you might as well enjoy it.
Anyway, you don’t often get to use the phrase “makes ‘Jersey Shore’ looking like intellectually gratifying programming,” but “Conveyor Belt of Love” made “Jersey Shore” look like intellectually gratifying programming.
While ABC probably should never bring “Conveyor Belt of Love” back to the air, I’d advise the producers to shop this sucker to Playboy TV. “Naked Conveyor Belt of Love” has all of the makings of a high-class reality hit.