TV shows on love and dating are some people’s guilty viewing pleasure while others find them cringeworthy. Here are three reasons why dating shows are polarizing.

TV dating shows can polarize
TV Dating Shows can be polarizing.
Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay.

For almost 20 years, The Bachelor and its spinoffs have ruled the TV dating world. In the UK, Love Island is one of the highest viewed shows on TV. Reality shows depicting the quest for love, keep viewers coming back. However, around any dinner table, talk about the value of these shows can become highly charged. It’s now at the point where it’s number 3 on the list of things not to talk about: politics, religion, and dating shows.

The Bachelor franchise is a TV dating show where a bachelor, or bachelorette, dates a series of pre-selected women or men. The bachelor or bachelorette eliminates people from the dating pool based on the impressions created during their dates and other activities. At the end show, the bachelor or bachelorette hands a rose to the person they choose to be in a relationship with. Sometimes it ends with a marriage proposal. Other times, it does not.

Love Island is a British originated dating show, where groups of people are isolated from the outside world. People initially form couples for various reasons. When the show introduces other participants, people can keep or change their partner. They eliminate any person who remains single from the show. Sometimes contestants and/or the public vote to eliminate couples. The couple that remains wins a monetary prize.

There Are Many Reasons These TV Dating Shows Are Polarizing

Reason 1: They Lack Diversity

TV Dating Shows are not diverse.
TV Dating Shows lack diversity.
Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay.

Skeptics of reality shows will often question the ‘reality’ being depicted. TV dating shows offer themselves up for similar criticisms. The Bachelor franchise and Love Island fall short on diversity.

The Bachelor franchise has fielded majority-white contestants for its duration and creates the impression of dating exclusivity. This year, they announced the first black bachelor. In eighteen years! It didn’t need to take a movement to elicit a change. It shouldn’t need another movement to be more inclusive of people of other sexual orientations and gender identities.

Love Island UK has faced similar criticisms, although the show’s concept varies slightly. Since they isolate the contestants on an island, their almost permanent state of dress is beachwear. They have criticized the show for only selecting physically attractive contestants. The contestants are also young. We can describe the dating show as dating for the young and physically attractive of specific ethnicities.

Reason 2: Is It About Love or Entertainment?

TV Dating Shows polarize because people wonder if it's love or entertainment.
TV Dating Shows are polarizing because it’s more entertainment than love.
Photo by JESHOOTS.com from Pexels.

There is some truth that many people tune into these dating shows for their pure entertainment value. There’s no shame in that. However, critics of these dating shows feel that the entertainment aspect somehow demeans the entire love and dating experience.

There have been many dramatic moments in The Bachelor franchise. They vet all contestants on these shows. Yet, season after season, producers are surprised by a contestant’s racist or sexist tweets, or a contestant’s criminal past, which makes viewers wonder if the vetting is as detailed as claimed. Or are the producers throwing in a few of these ‘gems’ to create entertainment value in these shows?

For me, the use of the word ‘contestants’ conjures up images of people competing for a prize. Which I guess they do. Some contestants are only on the show to launch their careers in the entertainment industry. For them, finding love is secondary. This only provides further ammunition to critics of dating shows.

Reason 3: The Dating Environment Is Unnatural

TV Dating Shows have unnatural dating environments.
TV Dating Shows have unnatural dating environments.
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash.

Love Island isolates its contestants on an island. In The Bachelor franchise, contestants live in a mansion coined the ‘Bachelor Mansion.’ The participants on both shows either give up their jobs or put their careers on hold to pursue “love.” In reality, this is hardly ever an option for the average Jane or Joe.

Participants have little to no contact with the outside world. Yet, the shows film their every movement. It’s like a spin on The Truman Show, except the participants know cameras are everywhere.

One argument for the isolation is that it creates a hyper-focus on love, relationships, and dating. It removes outside interest and distractions. Could it be one reason that so few pairings last in the Bachelor franchise when the cameras stop rolling? Could the dating show environment be too contrived? In actual life, few people have the luxury to isolate themselves in their quest for love. Families, friends, and other support structures feature strongly in real life love relationships. Idyllic homes and environments are very rare.

There have been success stories of TV dating show pairings. The ‘Bachelor Nation’ has also sprouted a few successful couplings of contestants from different seasons. One could say that they found love in a larger dating pool! Love Island also saw many relationships dissolving post-show. There have been a few successful relationships, though, which help to keep viewers coming back.

There have been success stories of TV dating show pairings. The ‘Bachelor Nation’ has also sprouted a few successful couplings of contestants from different seasons. One could say that they found love in a larger dating pool! Love Island also saw many relationships dissolving post-show. There have been a few successful relationships, though, which help to keep viewers coming back.


Love them or hate them, TV dating shows are here to stay. They may polarize, but they wouldn’t exist without a side-serving of entertainment. Whether it’s escapist viewing or a genuine desire to see true love blossom, they remain popular on the small screen. Would dating shows featuring older and/or more diverse participants garner such popularity?