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Why CBS’s Real Love Boat could be way more interesting than it sounds

Why CBS’s Real Love Boat could be way more interesting than it sounds
The Regal Princess cruise ship, perhaps the location for CBS's Real Love Boat, which will film in the Mediterranean during summer 2022 (Photo by Princess Cruise via CBS)

A reality TV version of the 1970s and 1980s romantic comedic TV series The Love Boat, which will be called The Real Love Boat because it’s a reality show version of The Love Boat, is coming to both CBS and Network 10 in Australia.

Eureka Productions is producing both series, which will have separate casts, and air in their respective countries. Eureka, which is based in both Sydney and Los Angeles, filmed Netflix’s reboot of The Mole in Australia last summer.

One of Eureka’s earliest American shows was Netflix’s terrific Dating Around, so that bodes well, though this series sounds very different.

The Real Love Boat will not be the first dating competition on board a boat, nor even aboard a cruise ship:

  • More than 20 years ago, Fox gave us Love Cruise, which aired in 2001 and lasted for one season,
  • More than a decade later, Lifetime produced 2012’s Love For Sail.
  • Chris Hardwick hosted two seasons of the syndicated Shipmates, which premiered in 2001 and followed blind dates on a Carnival Cruise ship

Meanwhile, CBS lost Love Island to Peacock, so it no longer has a dating reality show, unless you count showmances on Big Brother.

While shows like The Bachelor and Love is Blind are going strong, it’s might be a challenging time to launch a new dating format: NBC just tried a new dating format with The Courtship, which was basically The Bachelorette meets Bridgerton, but pulled it and dumped it on USA Network after just two episodes.

Real Love Boat = reality TV remixed?

The Real Love Boat on CBS

The Real Love Boat will be filmed in the Mediterranean from June 1 to 27, according to the application.

Here’s its format, according to CBS’s press release:

The Real Love Boat brings singles together to cruise the Mediterranean on a luxury cruise ship while looking for love. Destination dates, challenges and surprise singles will test the couples’ compatibility and chemistry. Like the beloved original scripted series, the indispensable crew members including “captain” and “cruise director” will play pivotal roles in the matchmaking and navigation of the romantic (and sometimes turbulent) waters ahead.

After almost a month at sea, only one winning couple will make it to the final port and take home a cash prize plus a once-in-a-lifetime trip courtesy of Princess Cruises, the series’ exclusive cruise line partner.

That mostly sounds like a remix of other dating competitions:

  • “Surprise singles” = Love Island and Ex on the Beach
  • “Destination dates” = The Bachelor/ette
  • “Challenges” = Bachelor in Paradise and Love Island
  • “only one winning couple” = Love Island

But the casting application is much more interesting than the announcement.

Will CBS’s Real Love Boat have queer cast members?

The casting application for CBS’s version starts off pretty generically, saying it the show is “searching for men and women who are up for the TRIP OF A LIFETIME and a chance to FIND TRUE LOVE!”

Yeah, true love on reality TV: that’s a thing people are definitely searching for, including viewers.

But among the more than 40 questions is #28: “What is your sexual orientation?” It offers “Heterosexual, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Pansexual, Asexual, Other” as potential options.

The Australian versions’ casting application has a similar question.

If The Real Love Boat has a cast with different sexual orientations, it’ll be a significant change in the dating space. Most shows are just straight men and straight women, with a show occasionally giving itself credit for casting a bisexual person.

But as MTV’s Are You The One proved, a cast of people who can pair up in more than one way is far more interesting, creating love triangles or quadrangles, and also just showing us something different than the same-old, same old.

CBS has already committed to racially diversifying its casts, and Survivor and Big Brother had increased their queer representation in the last year. All of that has made for more dynamic and entertaining seasons.

Will that be the case for The Real Love Boat, too?

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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Wednesday 23rd of March 2022

I hope it's the 1st show of this type to be good. LOVE CRUISE was awful, and SHIPMATES was much, much, much worse than that--a show that tried to cash in on the syndicated dating shows like BLIND DATE, ELIMIDATE, and THE 5th WHEEL but was cheap and ugly and wasted Chris Hardwick's talent (there are legitimate issues with his off-camera actions, but he's an outstanding host/personality type when the project involved isn't complete horseshit).