[Contains surprise kittens and SPOILERS!!!]
Before diving back into Burning Love and bingeing down on the third season (2013), I decided to check out one of the shows that inspired its witer/creator, Erica Oyama, so I could better appreciate the parodic elements. Up until that point I’d assumed that cast members from previous seasons had been carried over purely for reasons of off-camera economy and loyalty/sociability… but the exact same thing happened in an episode of The Bachelorette that I skim-watched, with an introductory preamble explaining that the eponymous singleton* was a previous quarter-finalist from The Bachelor, who’d decided to excuse herself from the competition in order to focus on her career, before having second thoughts and deciding to prioritise her love life instead, via a starring role in her own romance-themed reality show! There were many other familiar elements, in terms of the setting and presentation… but the one difference I’m most grateful for is that Burning Love clips along at a much brisker pace, while the real Bachelorette‘s “arrivals and introductions” episode seemed to go on forever! I’d also argue that the characters in this cartoonish comedy are far more relatable and realistic than the ones in the “serious” shows its spoofing… but that might just be personal bias…?
Anyhoo, the show’s premise got a little shake-up for its third outing, with various boy-girl couples competing against each other (and sometimes themselves) in a variety of inane tasks, in the hopes of winning a grand prize of $900! Yes, that’s right… three digits… nine-zero-zero… but hilariously they all acted as if it was the sort of life-changing, dream-come-true-making jackpot that would drive enemies to forge uneasy alliances and set bosom-buddies a-backstabbing, while scoffing at the human emotion we call “Love”. The high-point of this gamesmanship-madness came courtesy of the adorably intense ‘Lexie’ (Beth Dover), who inadvertently poisoned a male contestant while attempting to eliminate a female rival, and then became incensed when her supposed “friends” failed to rally around her, angrily insisting that she totally had their backs… aside from that little slip with the deadly daiquiri, of course! In fact, I’d say Dover was easily this season’s MVP, as previous stars stepped aside to make way for her knee-jerk rage, crazy-eyed ranting, and dry-humping power-plays. Hotcha! Although her “attempted murder” faux pas saw her being disqualified (and arrested) a couple episodes shy of the finale, she still managed to lure one of the men (played by Dover’s real-life husband Joe Lo Truglio) into her spiral of insanity… and it was actually kinda sweet to see them being hustled away in handcuffs together, proudly professing their “fatal attraction”… aw!
Of course, there were plenty other very welcome and familiar faces rounding out the cast, with June Diane Raphael, Natasha Leggero, Abigail Spencer, Morgan Walsh, Christine Taylor, Janet Varney, Helen Slayton-Hughes, and Carla Gallo all returning for another ride on the merry-go-round… along with newcomers Leslie Bibb and Carly Craig, playing former contestants from a previous (fictional) season of the show.
Verdict: Although there were a lot of great new gags this time around (I especially enjoyed the incongruous outfits that the host (Michael Ian Black) wore to introduce an upcoming challenge, while using equally misleading wordplay to confound the contestants), I couldn’t help thinking that some of the characters were wearing a little thin by this point, and that the series as a whole was running out of steam. That said, I’d still rank it as a top-class (and highly addictive) comedy, which I’m definitely going to have to pick up on DVD someday, to enjoy all over again and again and again…
* Alexandra “Ali” Fedotowsky of The Bachelor: On the Wings of Love, and the sixth season of The Bachelorette (2010), in case you’re curious.