Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Take Heart

By John McCormack

JUNE 21, 1999:  For those of you still feeling blue about the departure of Studs from late-nite television over half a decade ago: your malaise has finally registered with top network brass. Change of Heart brings shameless voyeurism back to the 11 o'clock time slot. This variation on The Dating Game sends both halves of a restless and predictably edgy couple (I mean, they've been going out six months!) on dates, ostensibly to find out if they really belong together. They don't, of course, ever really belong together; but for the sake of, what, humiliation let's say, each partner describes his or her respective date making pained efforts to drive his or her current sex partner wild with jealousy. Said date is introduced and brought forth for inspection to much whooping it up by the audience, not to mention an indiscriminate use of the "raising-the-roof" gesture. The jealous partner eyes the interloper, often resorting to sniping comments about his or her physical appearance, with a special mean-spirited focus on hair.

It is ridiculous, usually. Lanky host Chris Jagger serviceably, if clumsily, navigates his guests through interminable rounds of "talking to the hand," pejorative salvos, awkward comebacks, and general audience uproar, as the minutia of each date is evinced with embarrassing candor.

The ever-mounting suspense as to whether the couple will weakly choose to stay together or boldly strike out in search of new and improbable sexual territory reaches its, er, climax when each partner holds up a placard stating his or her intent to "Stay Together" (smiley face) or have a "Change of Heart" (frowny face).

The ultimate Heart experience is a show in which someone is left teetering precariously on the edge of public shame by choosing to Stay Together when the other has chosen a Change of Heart. Or, and this is very rare, when a particularly romantic outing leads to the lusty twentysomethings "getting biz-zay!" The show's producers take care to state that intercourse is neither encouraged nor endorsed, however. Spoil sports.

Typical denouement is a couple breaking out into jittery laughter after they choose to Stay Together, foreheads bumping as they awkwardly kiss and make-up in front of the live studio audience. This usually entails apologizing effusively for calling the other "fatass" on national television. Then for some reason everyone stands up and starts hugging. Hip Swedish decor (think Ikea) and porny theme music round out this mesmerizing train wreck of a television show.

(Note: for certain acutely embarrassing moments, make sure you have a pillow or for God's sake something with which to hide your face.)

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