Amanda Harvie is a cute, 23-year-old bartender looking for love. Her mom (and best friend) Larissa thinks she knows best what kind guy Amanda will gravitate toward, but professional matchmaker and dating expert Carmelia Ray thinks she has the expertise to find Amanda a likelier match. After a short interview with Amanda, Carmelia looks through her computer for the right guy, while Larissa visits a nearby improvisational theater class to interview prospects. Each potential Cupid coaches her candidate for a first date, which we get to watch.
We get a bowling alley, a bar (made of ice, apparently), a mannequin, and a bunch of hidden cameras as each training session and first date unfolds. To every participant’s credit, despite the forced nature of the entire exercise from premise to execution, everyone seems to make a sincere attempt at making things work, with no trace of irony, which would destroy a show like this. Any irony needs to be brought by the viewer, and I at first didn’t have any problem looking at the show through a non-ironic prism.
Amanda is cute, Larissa is cute, Carmelia is cute, and each of the dates is cute. It’s nearly a cuteness overload, but I’m not complaining because that’s good enough a reason for me to watch. I should admit that I’m a really, really slow dater, and almost none of the advice given by anyone in this show would work for me, and if I were to take it very seriously, I’m not sure I’d make it through a whole episode without the cute likeability of everyone on screen. With no personal connection or investment, what’s left for me is to be entertained, and (mostly) I am.
The show is fun to watch in the first half. The edits are playful, with quick shots of subjects against seamless white backgrounds. It’s a good-looking, well-produced program. My only technical complaints come in the second half, where the voiceover (which is fine in the intro) gets needlessly intrusive, and there are a few too many exterior shots through a fisheye lens.
Reactions by Larissa and Carmelia in the hidden rooms feel scripted, and motivated more by wanting good soundbites than expressing anything meaningful. If there’s a weakness here, it’s this: everyone seems to be too fully aware of the camera in the real-life segments of the program. This is okay from Carmelia, who serves as a kind of ringmaster, but some illusion of spontaneity would go a long way toward establishing some kind of humor or tension. Think of how real the hidden camera segments felt in a show like Supernanny, and you see what I mean. The kids in that program could only be themselves, and since the parents could only respond to behaviors, a feeling of realness permeated everything, increasing the viewer’s engagement.
Still, even as I write this, I’m aware of taking the program too seriously. My first, just-enjoy-it viewing (I try to save my critical eye for the second viewing) was entertaining. I found myself picking one of the candidates, semi-seriously involved in the final reveal, and that’s a good sign. Mom vs. Matchmaker is definitely worth a few looks, and I’ll be back.