NBC pits “cougars” against “kittens” on Age of Love

Just when you thought that the “gotcha” dating show subgenre had expired, NBC debuts Age of Love tonight at 9 p.m. ET. Thirteen women are grouped as “cougars,” who are around 40, and “kittens,” who are in their 20s, and they all compete against each other for the affections of Mark Philippoussis, a 30-year-old tennis player from Australia who once was linked to Paris Hilton.

NBC calls the series “a social experiment based on the question: When it comes to falling in love, does age really matter?” Of course, producers do everything they can to emphasize the age differences; the 20-year-olds are shown hoola-hooping in tiny clothes, while the older women are reading, doing laundry, and sewing. JD Roth executive produces and narrates, as he does so many of his other series; another guy named Mark, Kelly Ripa’s husband Mark Consuelos, hosts.

I watched the first episode, and while the concept is intriguing, it feels like a regurgitation of NBC’s earlier dating-with-a-twist series Average Joe, just with the sexes switched and a different twist, with a tiny bit of Roth’s Beauty and the Geek‘s redeeming social value thrown in.

The producers didn’t tell Mark the tennis player about the show’s concept, and he’s clearly blindsided at first when he’s introduced to the 40-something women who helpfully give their ages. Why screw over your star by making him the joke? Perhaps because he would have fled before any of the older women had a chance to point out that he’s the same age as her son. Another twist comes at the end of the first episode when the younger women are literally unveiled, and you can again see him grow concerned that he signed up for a joke of a series, not something as serious and earnest as The Bachelor.

Despite the meager attempts at drama with the twists, the first episode is ridiculously slow. In fact, the most exciting part was the “this season” recap that comes first, which seems to highlight most of the dramatic moments from the whole season and make actually watching unnecessary.

Age of Love [NBC]