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Tough Love Season 4 is Missing Something…or Someone?

November 7, 2011

One episode left of Tough Love this season! Dear god, what am I going to do? Oh right, I’ll get my fix on The Wards Get Real, which Hawaiian television has led me to believe will air next week at…some point, but who can really say? Luckily these days you can find anything you need to see online. I’m going to be perfectly honest though: if there were a scheduling conflict between this season’s Tough Love and some cheesy, magic, fantasy epic with lots of arrows and shit, or between that and a good hamburger – I’d be hard pressed to forgo the hamburger. Tough Love seems to have lost a bit of its sparkle, and I can’t help but agree that it’s a smart move for Steve to start shifting his focus to other endeavors, although I may be getting ahead of myself.

tough love, steve ward, miami, janeI am pinning my dissatisfaction with season four squarely on one person: Jane. Jane, as I mentioned, was cast to fulfill the role of Fire Starter, and she has been failing me, emphatically. In the beginning of boot camp, Jane was a self-professed “crazy psycho,” and I was right behind her, all the way. She was meant to cause most of the dramatic tension, and she seemed well on her way to fulfilling this roll, right up until The Dreaded Makeover.

In terms of promoting personal growth, what Steve Ward did with Jane was incredibly keen. Jane was a hard-edged, angry person: she acted that way, and she looked that way.

tough love, steve ward, miami, jane
Wait a minute…

When Jane got up in the morning, that’s who she saw in the mirror, and she revived that character every day of her life.  When Steve had her overhauled into Jane: Victoria’s Secret Edition, it not only changed the way people perceived and reacted to her, it changed the way she perceived herself. Good for Jane: Bad for Tough Love.

When Steve Ward was but a fledgling host, he had two things really working in his favor:

1) Novelty. It was a quality show with a positive spin, an inherent emotional arc, and a thoughtful extension of the Reality genre.

2) Taylor Royce.

tough love, steve ward, taylor royceLove her or hate her, Taylor Royce made shit happen. People either rallied around her or stayed way the hell away. She created dramatic rifts between the other women, and formed the sort of heart-felt friendships (as far as she was able) that Tough Love hasn’t seen since. Taylor Royce wasn’t someone most people want in their day to day life, but as far as Tough Love was concerned, she was Reality gold. She caused tension, she started fights, she finished fights, and she could be surprisingly strong and compassionate. She was the sensationalist element viewers crave, and the same time, she was more real than anyone Steve has worked with in subsequent seasons. She was a catalyst, and Tough Love has yet to find anyone to replace her.

In terms of casting, I imagine Season One had a much smaller crop of candidates. I haven’t bothered to confirm this, but from what I hear, several of the women had appeared in reality series previously, so I take that to mean that most of those women had had their finger on the pulse of Reality casting: that suggests something of the dramatic sensationalist in them already. By Season Four, every Jane, Kate, and Sally was clamoring for a piece of Tough Love Boot Camp, so the casting crew had a far more daunting task, trying to select those that would balance “fucked up but fixable” with “absolutely hopeless mess.” It looked to me as though they had hit the mark with the “fierce and fabulous” Jane, but she majorly dropped the drama-baton somewhere around episode three, leaving editors scrambling to piece together something remotely compelling with eight even tempered women who can take direction and who tolerate each other reasonably well. Even Steve has taken to forcing himself to lose his temper again. I love this show, but even I’m tempted to switch the channel while Steve plays out his Totally Heated For No Reason Whatsoever moments.

tough love, steve ward, miami,

That's more like it.

All this make me wonder how producers intend to up the ante next season.  Still, there is no doubt at all that I’ll be watching. Honestly, I think casting has to step up, and also…I don’t know, maybe an obstacle course a la MXC; Most eXtreme elimination Challenge. Actually, now that I think about it, yeeessssss…

All right, guys:

Obstacle Course?

Kung Fu Battle?

Survivor Wilderness Week?

If you were a producer, what would you change to get Tough Love back on the top of your charts?

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