Patti Stanger, a reality heroine as sharp-edged as her mannish jawline, takes her rich-person hookup service to the Big Apple for its fourth season, which premiered tonight on Bravo. Apparently more and more members of mainstream audiences are warming to Stanger’s hard-nosed persona, because the third season finale was the highest-rated episode of the show ever.
I’ve watched all three seasons and found Stanger simultaneously absurd and piercingly insightful throughout. She’s like that drunk aunt at your wedding who cries “that fat girl shouldn’t be getting another piece of cake!” You scoff at her lack of decency and self-censorship, but then you admit, well, she’s right. The fat girl shouldn’t be helping herself to more cake. Such is Stanger’s role on the show–she supplies candid personality coaching to people who need it.
At its core,Stanger’s whole enterprise is really more about self-improvement and self-realization than actually, you know, sex and dating. In Stanger’s world, people have to be completely together before they can attract or even deserve a significant other. If the laws of attraction and romance were truly bound by her standards, literally millions of idiots and assholes wouldn’t be able to reproduce. I can’t say definitively that it would be a worse world.
The show is blatantly politically incorrect and offends a lot of people, including this reviewer at the AV Club who whines about the show’s “backwards sexual politics.” By backwards, I take it he means contrary to our current dating culture that has led to both unbelievable divorce rates and oodles of unhappy aging single women and men. In any case, I embrace the show’s paleolithic dating strategies, because at least they’re based on real results. Namely, your parents’ and grandparents’ marriages.
Anyways, season four’s premiere felt off to me –her typical castor-oil lessons were just a little beyond the pale this time around. Maybe she’s still getting acclimated to the new city. This week’s clients are Bryce, who would be incredibly attractive if she didn’t have a kid and wasn’t celibate (which is like saying “Life As We Know It” would be a good movie if it didn’t star Katherine Heigl and the plot was about a time-traveling haberdasher), and Derek, who reminds me of an older version of Turtle from Entourage.
Upon meeting the new clients, Stanger immediately comes down hard on NYC men and women–apparently, they’re all “guidos” and “stuck-up, spoiled NYC bitches.” First of all, let’s clear the air and explain that Stanger herself is from NYC. Yes, I’m sure she never embodied a stuck-up bitch attitude. (*rolls eyes*) Also, her evidence for each’s client’s transgressions is questionable. For instance, Bryce doesn’t want to date a guy who self-tans. That seems like a reasonable standard to me. Yet in Stanger’s world, this somehow makes her a stuck-up bitch. Stanger also makes fun of Bryce’s big nose, even though her own schnoz looks like a f***ing banana!
On to Derek, who is a “guido meathead” because…he likes the Yankees? I find that to be an extremely low bar for guido status.
After meeting and talking with these two comes what’s always the most awkward part of the show, in which Stanger parades them out like slaves on an auction block and explains to all the potential matches how great they are—in the meantime, they stand behind her, pick their asses, and wait.
I had a really tough time with the way Stanger handled the meek Bryce, a feeling unmitigated by my natural affinity for thin brunette women and introverts. Bryce didn’t like any of the men Stanger had picked, so Stanger said she was “too picky.” The basic problem with this reasoning, however, is that Bryce is paying Stanger to provide a service. If Bryce asks for a six foot four husky Jewish librarian with The Situation abs and Stanger brought her one who’s only six three and a third, Bryce would have every right to object. Stanger sometimes seems to forget that her business is built on the very idea that people are too picky. And she sometimes seems too eager to try to change people, whether or not the change will have any implication on the client’s dating life.
Other “evidence” of Bryce’s frigid nature: the fact that she’s kind of shy and froze up when her date proclaimed “Sex, I’m good at sex.” I wouldn’t appreciate someone saying that either, unless it was during sex and she was being ironic. Stanger is much too quick to equate Bryce’s reserved nature with simple bitchiness. This is classic projection–Stanger is a loudmouth, so she naturally assumes that anyone who isn’t talking nonstop must be pissed-off or depressed.
For the record, I doubt Bryce is that much of a c***. (For proof of this, check out her Twitter, as well as a self-effacing video on the Huffington Post of her getting her pelvis vajazzled.) Because Stanger doesn’t have a firm grasp of Bryce’s personality, her attempts to help the young Dannon heiress find love will be perpetually misguided. What a shame.
Derek gets off easier, but still feels the burn of Stanger, who watches commitment-phobic men like a hawk. Stanger’s lessons often come at the expense of hypocrisy. And when they’re off the mark, you start to wonder whether Stanger really is the deluded, backwards-thinking old ninny that all her critics suggest. Tonight we saw this principle in action.
Episode Grade: C plus
IYI: In the interest of debate, a completely different take on this episode from the AV Club, though we did end up giving the episode the same grade.