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Reality TV sinks further under 'Chains of Love'

Tuesday, April 17, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

With tonight's premiere of "Chains of Love" (8 p.m. on UPN), so-called "reality TV" sinks to an absurd new low.

Four women are chained to a man, who releases them one by one, doling out the amount of money he thinks they deserve for their time on this alleged "relationship show."

"Chains of Love"

When: 8 tonight on WNPA.

Starring: A bunch of losers


A fellow critic once compared Fox's "Temptation Island" to "televised prostitution," but "Chains of Love" comes closer.

Tonight Andy gets to toy with the emotions of the women who volunteer to be chained to him. He's a Hollywood stuntman. We know this because we're shown scenes of Andy wearing a leather jacket and riding a motorcycle posing like a tough guy.

An announcer describes the shackled women as "playmates" -- an unfortunate choice of words. They're mostly blond and tough to tell apart. (In future episodes a woman will be the chooser with four guys chained to her.)

Kerstin says she talks the talk of a bad girl more than she walks the walk. Nicki is a bisexual Australian bodybuilder. Vanessa is an "outspoken intellectual" who has been accused of being "too cerebral." And Amy describes herself as "a nice girl with a bit of a twist."

Hmmm, what could that twist be? That's right, it's a willingness to go on national television and debase herself.

Andy and his angels make a Los Angeles mansion their home base for four days, sleeping together in a specially constructed five-person bed. Soon after they arrive, host Madison Michelle summons them into the "ritual room" for the "chaining ritual." There they also meet the unheralded star of the show: The Locksmith. (Cue scary music.)

Whenever the beefy, brawny, WWF-ready Locksmith arrives during this hourlong show -- always dressed in black, wearing shades and accompanied by ominous music -- Andy must release one of the women and decide how much money she deserves from a $10,000 weekly kitty.

When it gets down to just Andy and one woman, he can choose to continue dating her (unchained, of course) or, if he's cheap, he can send her away with some money while keeping the rest for himself.

Locked up and loving it, Andy and the gals shuffle about the house, but always seem to end up near food.

"Do you want me to touch your tomatoes?" one woman says as they try to build sandwiches.

"You can touch my tomatoes," Andy replies.

Feel the sexual tension!

Suddenly they're all in swimsuits, splashing about in an indoor pool, but the circumstances of their undressing aren't part of the show (in a teleconference last week producers said contestants are unlocked to use the bathroom and change clothes).

Andy and Vanessa seem to clash frequently, and it's obvious from the editing she'll be the first one kicked off ("Survivor" is amazingly subtle by comparison). Arrogant Andy gives her $500 for her trouble and $100 to "go to a bookstore to find a book on how to release some control."

Maybe Vanessa should pass that book along to Andy when she's done reading it.

With three women left, Andy and his dates go for a cruise on a yacht. They get fortune cookie messages that constitute a truth or dare game. The first message urges Kerstin to dip Andy's fingers in wine and lick it off or fake an orgasm. Andy seems pleased that she likes to lick.

If you can get past the show's whole naughty S&M vibe, "Chains of Love" could be a guilty pleasure, with the emphasis on guilt. I can imagine groups of friends watching together, mouths agape at the awfulness of it, talking back to the TV the whole time.

But even for fans of trash TV, there may be a limit. "Chains of Love" might cause some soul searching: Just how much of our limited free time do we want to spend wallowing in this pop culture cesspool?

"All Souls" (9 tonight, UPN)

As obvious as it is confusing, UPN's new haunted hospital drama from "Twin Peaks" executive producer Mark Frost (and Aaron Spelling) shows signs of potential. Tonight's premiere isn't a great hour, but it sets up the mythological elements necessary to turn "All Souls" into something far more intriguing.

Dr. Mitchell Grace (Grayson McCouch) has wanted to practice medicine at Boston's All Souls Hospital since his father died there in 1978. Now he's getting that chance, but during his first day on the job he discovers All Souls lives up to its spooky name.

"All Souls"

When: 9 tonight on WNPA.

Starring: Grayson McCouch, Irma P. Hall


Patients die mysteriously after a creepy-looking orderly steals them away from a nice, high-spirited orderly. A geezerly old doctor seethes an I-am-evil vibe with every breath. And kindly old nurse Glory St. Clair (the always welcome Irma P. Hall) seems to be the only one who sees a woman dressed in black Victorian garb pushing a baby carriage down hospital hallways.

There's confusing hanky panky between Dr. Grace and a beautiful woman who turns out to be possessed by something (spirit? demon?) that lives in the hospital basement with a gaggle of other somethings.

That the evil old doctor conducts gruesome experiments on destitute patients comes as little surprise, but a connection between Dr. Grace, a ghost named Lazarus and doctors who worked at the hospital during the Civil War bodes well for the show's future.

If Frost can shake off the show's less-than-subtle trappings and concentrate on the intriguing mythological elements introduced in the premiere, "All Souls" may be able to attract more than a few souls to UPN.

You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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