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Have Koreans Lost Interest In Virtual Dating Shows?

BY Adrienne Stanley | Apr 13, 2015 02:19 PM EDT

Virtual dating and relationship variety shows emerged from the popularity of “We Got Married” but these programs appear to be a steady decline. On April 14, jTBC announced the cancellation of the most recent program to tackle virtual relationships, “Dating Alone.” A spin-off of the 2012 show “Imagination Love Battle, “Dating Alone” premiered in February 2015 but failed to capture the interest of Korean audiences.

The premise of “Dating Alone” was unique. Female celebrities posed as virtual dates for male participants before they embarked on a mock date. “Dating Alone” provided an opportunity to receive the perspectives of idols and actresses, as they assessed their male counterparts.

The 11-episode run included some of the hottest young celebrities in Korean entertainment. A-Pink’s Eunji kicked off the first episode as the virtual lover, with Jinwoon of 2AM as the guest. Other episodes included GOT7’s Jackson, Kwon Yuri and Seo Kang Joon. However, the show was not able to sustain itself, yielding low ratings for its time. Even the appearance of EXO’s Chanyeol failed to provide higher ratings for the flagging program.

“Dating Alone” is not the only casualty of increased disinterest in virtual relationship shows.
“Roommate” debuted in May 2014 to great fanfare, the show was initially marketed as an opportunity to watch Korean celebrities struggle with the trials and tribulations of simulated dorm life. However, it swiftly evolved into a program where there were virtual pairings between the stars. 2NE1’s Park Bom became the highlight of the show as viewers focused on the possibility of a relationship involving the K-pop idol and actor Lee Dong Wook. They were one of the primary virtual couples for “Roommate” which became a disadvantage for the show, particularly when Park Bom was one of the first celebrities to depart from season one. The second season of “Roommate” was cancelled due to low ratings, with the final episode airing on April 14.

One of the best examples of flagging interest in virtual relationships and dating is the steady decline in domestic viewership for “We Got Married.” On April 11, “We Got Married” recorded its lowest ratings to date, with only 3% of viewers tuning in. Season 4 of “We Got Married” has been plagued by dating scandals including past cast member Hong Jong Hyun. Kim So Eun, who was also at the center of a dating scandal, has remained on the show as part of the popular LTE couple with Song Jae Rim. Audiences have expressed interest in CNBLUE’s Jong Hyun and actress Gong Seung Yeon but the show is also plagued by discontent surrounding Yewon.

The primary reason for lack of interest in virtual dating and marriage shows could be the real-life relationships involving high profile celebrities like Lee Min Ho and Suzy. As more stars come forth with their partners, scripted dating shows hold less appeal. Dating variety shows have also fallen victim to lighthearted programs like “The Return of Superman,” where celebrity fathers interact with their adorable children. “The Return of Superman” may be more wholesome than the push and pull dynamic of “We Got Married” but recent trends with ratings demonstrate that Koreans may be more interested in the Song triplets than virtual weddings.

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