The TVB reality show Bride Wannabe has been the talk of the town and for good reason: it took a frequently heard complaint of men, spliced in pseudo expert comment and aired it in a late-night slot that is ordinarily a viewing wilderness. Unsurprisingly, it was an instant hit, pulling in millions of devotees. If the job of a public broadcaster is to entertain, the station did a sterling job. But the many critics of the show - who questioned the programme's judgments, the morals of the contestants and the product placements - also showed there are people who take reality television at more than face value.
Academics and professionals were aghast at the advice being handed out to the five women in their 30s, who had been branded by the show as 'leftovers'. It is a term oft-used by Hong Kong men to describe those of the opposite sex of marriageable age who to them have overly high expectations of what they want in a partner. Not a great deal of research has been done in the area, so it can only be assumed that it is one of the reasons for several striking social phenomena in our city. A rising number of women are staying single; the birth rate remains one of the world's lowest; and an increasing tide of men are turning to the mainland for love.
To have a matter generally voiced quietly among men aired so publicly is refreshing; to pair it with a dating game is creative; and to make advertising income by slipping in products here and there is commercially shrewd. Using real people and putting the concoction under the 'reality TV' banner, it was guaranteed to be entertaining. Despite this, scores of complaints have been filed to TVB and the Hong Kong Communications Authority. They fumed that women were being degraded and unsound advice on how to find love was being given.
Programme producers have long walked a fine line between love and hate. They have to be especially careful when it comes to reality shows. While they are created to be riveting and enjoyable, there are viewers who are apt to take them too seriously.