According to April Beyer, a matchmaker with a decade and a half of experience, Making Mr. Right is “the grandest dating social experiment in history.” In reality, though, it’s a slurry concocted from parts of The Bachelor(ette) franchise, Millionaire Matchmaker, and Joe Millionaire, completely devoid of the glamor those titles imply, with a narrative playing in to the concept that women just want to change a man, and men are incapable of being viable adults without women. The show centers around three women (construction worker Rachel, single mom Brittany and the-so-bland-I-can’t-even-think-of-a-good-modifier-for-her Lindsay), who pose as April’s assistant matchmakers so they can create the man of their dreams. This is accomplished through activities like parsing what each contestant packed to bring on the show (a bullhorn!) and spying on speed-dating sessions where they use proxies to ask prying questions. It’s telling that these women seem less concerned about lying to their eventual soulmates than they do about keeping their legit matchmaker covers. Throughout, Rachel, Brittany, and Lindsay seem so worried that they won’t look like pros. Ladies, it’s not surgery.
Each guy thinks they’re a contestant on the faux-show Match Me If You Can. Even the fake title is problematic, positing love as a challenge. In Making Mr. Right, it’s not a challenge so much as a game. Each activity the women participate in enables terrible behavior. While going through each contestant’s suitcases, Brittany says, “All of my exes will tell you I’m the biggest snooper.… This could become addictive.” The most interesting thing the suitcases reveal is how many men think they need to bring their own condoms. (I always assumed they were given out freely, like booze.) One guy did have a copy of The Game in his suitcase, which was like cross-promotion for a bygone era (RIP “The Pick Up Artist”).
The speed-dating round was more disturbing, only partly because of how unnecessarily complicated it was. Each guy is set up on a speed date with a woman, whose line of questioning is dictated by the “matchmakers” in the booth. April, who periodically guides her charges through the challenges, pumps the women up by telling them they are given carte blanche to ask questions that aren’t deemed appropriate for a first date. “Who ended your marriage, you or your ex wife?” Lindsay asks to an ignorant Adam, a single dad from Atlanta. But there’s a reason the questions these women ask are inappropriate for a first date: because they’re horribly invasive and that’s not how basic social decorum works. But what really bothered me was why the matchmakers had to interrogate via someone else. Why not just question the contestants themselves? Wouldn’t they be given access to the personal lives of these men? It’s so convoluted, it’s not even fun anymore. On an even more pathetic note, one contestant falls for the stand-in speed dater who was only there so she could elaborately lie to him.
Hating on a romantic reality show for its philosophical implications of love is as stupid an idea as going on a romantic reality show to find love. Shows like the The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Millionaire Matchmaker feel less sleazy because the contestants know what they’re getting into. They’ve elected to go to rose ceremonies or be shouted at by the abrasive (yet lovable) Stanger. April is no Patti Stanger. She’s more Julie Chen-bot. You can almost see her eyes move across cue cards as she says her lines. The blandness extends to both the pseudo matchmakers and their contestants, who do little to differentiate themselves from each other, although studious reality watchers can spot a winner’s edit when they see one (“Mr. Frat Boy” Ryan is either getting a massive personality makeover or is flaming out hard near the end).
In the background of the show, there is a half-baked narrative that these women are also bettering themselves. April sits Rachel down and gets her to admit she doesn’t speak to her parents anymore. Of course! Years of Rachel’s torment are washed away by one conversation with a matchmaker. Every dating reality show hinges on some sort of surface-level psychology, because tears, anger, and heightened emotion make good drama. But “Making Mr. Right” isn’t constructed well enough to even mine the first mascara-ruining moment for prime drama. It’s a glossed over conversation that hints Rachel should probably not be looking for a love on a reality dating show.
There’s little guilt stemming from the idea that these women are lying to find a soulmate, but Brittany and Lindsay do voice doubts about deceiving their potential partners. But not too much doubt. “I think for me, I have a little bit of guilt setting in. This is me pretending to be something I’m not,” Brittany says, “so I’m worried I’m going to blow my cover.”