As dated as ever

As anyone who remembers "The Dating Game" knows, the way the game works is that a young female contestant gets to ask a series of questions to three young male contestants (aka "eligible bachelors"), then chooses the best man based on the answers. She cannot see them, of course.

In this charming episode from 1972, horror star Vincent Price offers a variation on the theme by asking the questions on the girl's behalf, then choosing the boy he thinks would be the best date.


I watched it carefully, and I have to agree with Vincent Price. Bachelor Number One strikes me as an egotistical jerk, so he's out from the get-go. This leaves Bachelor Number Two (a wholesome and attractive class president type) and Bachelor Number Three (by far the most intelligent, if also eccentric of the three).

Fascinatingly, Three is the lone Republican of the group -- a quirky thing for a young 1970s TV contestant. Because Price was a good Democrat, he would never have picked a Republican, and politically this left him with no choice but Number Two.

I would agree with Vincent Price, but not because Number Three was a Republican, but because he would have made the best husband. The purpose of the show was not to find long-term husband material, but a hot date. Number Two is the kind of guy who would have taken her to the back seat of his car and given her a hot time. Number Three was a non-conformist who clearly did not follow the herd. A "geek" even. He had to be rejected.

In those days, television audiences wanted show, not substance. Vincent Price delivered.

In today's terms, she got the best hookup. Maybe the show isn't as dated as it seems.


posted by Eric on 12.18.10 at 12:54 AM


Uh uhhhh. Maybe the purpose of the Dating Game FOR MEN was to find a hot date. The purpose FOR WOMEN was to find a husband. (But I don't think that was the case for men either.) You may have been a Love Child by 1970, but the rest of America wasn't there yet.

The reason the show was able to attract so many good looking contestants was because of a little loophole in the actors' union contracts--that the Dating Game allowed (by invitation and advertising in the actors' rags).

The show as covered under an AFTRA contract, so if you joined AFTRA (which was always a union you could join by just showing up with the cash), and then went on the show, you were then allowed to join SAG (a union that required that you be a professional actor before being allowed to join, but you couldn't work in film unless you were a SAG member--an example of a Catch 22 if there ever was one).

As an AFTRA member, the show HAD to pay you scale for appearing (penalties for both sides if they failed to disclose/pay). Most game shows do not allow union members to appear, both because the producers don't want to have to pay their contestants and because of the apparent risks of conflict of interest... something the Dating Game (and later, The Gong Show) didn't care about and exploited.

The SAG loophole allowed you to join SAG if you did one job under an AFTRA (or Equity) contract.

The reason I know that it was about finding husbands/wives (and not hot dates) was because a few of the folks I knew who went on to use the SAG loophole had to apologize to VERY disappointed young women (and men) when they learned that the reason the person went on the show was as a ruse to get in SAG. I seem to recall that there was a tiny brouhaha over this, and there was a notice at the end of the program (not sure if it was there at the beginning) that disclosed that some people were paid contestants.

Some actors did it for the money. $150 for a day's work was nothing to sneeze at (and actors have always been whores).

Mrs. du Toit   ·  December 18, 2010 10:58 AM

Hi Connie,

Thanks for the very interesting inside information, and it is interesting to know that these women were seeking husbands. If any of these bachelors were actors, that certainly changes the equation, but that makes me also wonder whether any of the women were also trying to use the show as a SAG loophole.

It would seem that Price should have known about this too, and it might have affected his pick.

Regarding "love children," I realize that "the rest of America wasn't there yet," but did the Dating Game represent the rest of America? Or did it only pretend to? How were the women selected?

Eric Scheie   ·  December 18, 2010 3:40 PM

Both women and men used the SAG loophole. I thought my "VERY disappointed young women (and men)."

Men or women were the ones asking the questions, remember. It wasn't just women.

I don't know if the Dating Game represented "the rest of America" or not, I'm only suggesting that "the rest of America" viewed dating with the sole purpose of finding a husband or wife (not a "hot date"), regardless of how one chose a person for a first date. Finding a "hot date" is something folks on the coasts were doing LONG before the folks in fly-over-country started doing it. Even on the coasts, it wasn't everyone.

Mrs. du Toit   ·  December 19, 2010 11:55 AM

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