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Marry Me, Steve! Why I Love ‘Tough Love.’

October 4, 2011

steve ward, tough love, review

The inimitable Steve Ward returned to television Sunday night with the season premiere of his reality series Tough Love.  I almost missed this love-lorn extravaganza because “Sunday at 9:30” in Hawaii could mean pretty much anything, and I don’t watch enough television to have learned  how to determine which time the local networks really mean.  The last I’d heard, the show was supposed to air at 10pm Wednesday, so you can imagine my delight when I happened to turn on the television and this show, which had bowed out for about a year after the lackluster Tough Love: Couples of 2010, was airing right at that very minute!  Eight new, hopeless, desperate, and/or psychotic women, all scrambling to find the man of their dreams, with the perfectly manicured Steve Ward ready to stand by, look pretty, and state the god damned obvious.

I love Steve Ward.  Let me just say that right now.  He talks an unparalleled level of sense out of everyone I’ve seen on reality television (by nature an intellectually grim genre), and he’s made a very lucrative living divulging very simple things, for instance: Don’t drink and text.  Should people need to be told this?  In this day and age anyone who is active in the dating scene has probably already humiliated themselves via drunken text, which should be a live-and-learn one off, so no, we should not need to be told this.  DO people need to be told this?  Let me just remind you of this little gem:

“thougt u were dif. thougt u cared”

I don’t care about people who don’t have the sense to step away from the phone when they can no longer operate it responsibly.

Anyway, Steve can be a bit of a tool sometimes, but he understands the dynamics of power and knows how to work the fact that he has all of it in his Tough Love boot camp.  Steve sizes people up quickly and accurately, and drives his points home with swift severity that’s tailored to how much vehemence the woman in question can handle.  He isn’t out to hurt people’s feelings, but he is blunt, he does speak his mind, and he’s pretty much always right.  Some of the women cop an attitude and fight back, but no one, on any iteration of Tough Love, has ever won against Steve Ward.

Rather than argue, I like it better when the women break down and cry.  This gets under Steve’s skin much better.  He’s not a back pedaler, but his temper will do a complete one eighty when he’s reduced one of his girls to tears.  Plus, I just like when he makes them cry, because everything he says is true.  That’s why it’s TOUGH LOVE!

Watching Steve callously state the obvious is fun, but equally amusing, however, is watching Steve lose his cool in the face of such idiocy.  What’s fun about this is that Steve doesn’t lose his cool, ever, which is very bad for ratings.  Therefore, over the years he’s adopted this hair-trigger temper persona, and every once in a while, at random and sometimes inappropriate intervals, Steve will completely fly off the handle and start yelling and cursing.  He used to be really bad at this: his breaks in temper were so choreographed it was actually more baffling than it was entertaining, but he’s gotten much better at it since season one.

What I really like about Tough Love is that although it’s just another reality TV gimmick, it operates on two different levels, endeavoring to both help people and to entertain me.  I get to sit back and enjoy myself without feeling like I’m profiting from someone else’s selfishness or misfortune.  I don’t think a lot of reality TV can say that.
For instance, let’s look at a show that helps people without entertaining me.  Hoarders or Buried Alive fits this bill.  These sad people are barricaded in their homes, desperate for help but rejecting and sniping at anyone who reaches out to them.  I sometimes pause on this show with a sense of morbid fascination that lasts about two minutes;  just in time for the show I was actually watching to have finished its commercial break.

steve ward, tough love, review

Hoarders is not melodramatic, there are hardly any fights, it’s not swanky, and Steve Ward isn’t there in an immaculate suit laying the verbal smack down.  So why the hell would I watch that?  A lot of people feel that way, which is why Hoarders is not nearly as popular as Keeping up with the Kardashians.

steve ward, tough love, review

Which would you watch, seriously?

Keeping Up with the Kardashians entertains millions of viewers, but has helped no one, not even the Kardashians if sense of self-worth (not to be confused with ego!) is anything to go by.  I’ve never actually seen a full episode of this show, but if Kardashians were rat poison, I’ve seen enough news coverage to wipe out a third world nation.  This is because the single aim of this show is to entertain, and what appeals to people is the fantasy element of the lavish lifestyle that most of us will never attain.  Having said that, I think the percentage of viewers who would actually trade their lives and families to be a Kardashian is basically nil.  I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am.

Anyway, Tough Love has that Kardashian-esque element of fantasy, with its Malibu Barbie mansion in pink and purple.  The place is utterly tacky and perfect for inspiring in viewers that awe-driven sense of envy.  Utterly tacky, unlike Royal Family-type class, is potentially attainable.

I also like to look at what recruiters must have been looking for when they chose these eight women.  Jane’s appeal is obvious: she has mental and emotional issues that are not going to be resolved on this show, and her sole purpose is to piss the other women off and cause problems.  Always present is the lighthearted blonde who falls in love on the first date – she matches up easily with any variety of men, to make Steve look as though he’s hit one out of the park in his first at bat.  There’s always a stripper too, so we can witness the way life choices need to be examined when looking for love.  All of these things set the show up for a naturally unfolding arc that will maintain a sense of growth and purpose.

While the women of Tough Love can spit and scream with the best of them, at the heart of the show is the positive goal to help them overcome their hang ups.  Whether or not this actually happens is moot, but by watching it I can feel I’m supporting a good cause, at no cost to myself!  It’s win win.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Anna permalink
    October 7, 2011 7:25 am

    Holy shit dude! I had no idea this show was still happening and I am so excited about it now. XD In my defense, I don’t even get VH1, but I streamed it online last time so hopefully it will be on their site again this season. I totally got hooked after you first told me to start watching it, haha. Basically for all the reasons stated above. Steve is hot and I love seeing him lay the smack down!

    • October 7, 2011 2:55 pm

      I know, I wouldn’t have known either if someone hadn’t told me. I have cable at my new place but it seems like whenever I decide to turn on the television all that’s on is Basketball Wives or Hoarders.

      This weekend it’s makeovers, and from the commercial it looks like there’s gonna be some DRAMA! (What else, really?) The amount that I’m looking forward to it is almost ridiculous.

      • Anna permalink
        October 7, 2011 5:32 pm

        Omg, I’m watching it right now. There are 2 (TWO!!!!) episodes up right now! I’m so excited! The British girl just called Steve a wanker. ❤ And I can't wait for him to lay the smack down on psycho Jane!

  2. October 27, 2011 10:05 am

    Can you please let your readers know we are casting for the new season?? 🙂 thanks!

  3. Jack permalink
    May 8, 2012 5:39 am

    Steve is annoying,he always talks about how women are flawed and should change for men,whatever happened to accepting someone for who they are Steve? Huh? You pretentious fuck,If I were to ever see you walking down the street I would strangle you with my bare hands.
    Mama’s boy

    • May 8, 2012 10:15 am

      Ha! Fair enough – he can be pretty grating for some people.

      I’m not of the camp that people should ‘love you unconditionally for who you are,’ in a sense, because ‘who you are’ in a certain context is taken to include certain behaviors that may have been learned rather than an essential part of who you are. The women on Tough Love have certain learned behaviors that don’t reflect who they are as people. For instance, the barbie-doll woman in this season (Stephanie?) has developed a look for herself that causes men to think she’s cheap. This is damaging to her ability to form relationships, and the kind of men that are willing to form a relationship with her are not the kind of men who can really make up half of a healthy relationship.

      Despina, on the other hand, is almost clinically incapable of forming any real relationship at all. It isn’t a matter of “love me for who I am,” because who she is toys with men and pushes them away at the first hint of a real connection; there’s not even any potential for love.

      I think there’s an important difference between who you are and who you appear to be, and though Steve can be harsh for the purposes of dramatic televised entertainment, his goal is to reconcile those two things in each of the women, so that who they really are is reflected in how they appear in their looks and behavior.


  1. Tough Love Season 4 is Missing Something…or Someone? « The Weapon of Choice

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