1 9 8 4 (Australia)
Australian network Channel 7 produced this show – which debuted on 30 July 1984 – to compete with the phenomenally successful Perfect Match, Channel 10’s dating game show that was one of the highest-rated Aussie programmes of 1984.
The irony for the producers of The Love Game was that they were trying to cash in on the success of something that could scarcely be called original itself. It was a format – stretching back to the 1940s – that depended on creating conditions where contestants could feel comfortable about submitting themselves to a blind date routine in the middle of a TV studio, and where an audience at home could get a voyeuristic-sympathetic kick out of it all.
It had to be cheerfully exuberant and couldn’t exhibit even a shadow of self-doubt.
Greg Evans – the host of Perfect Match – was a perfectly confident host for whom the word “brash” seems woefully inadequate. The Love Game‘s Mark Holden had the right credentials as a former soapie heartthrob and romantic balladeer teen pop star, but brash he wasn’t; embarrassed he was – and the feeling was contagious.
Holden was assisted by former-model (and future Lotto host) Alex Wileman.
On Perfect Match, the contestants also had some part to play in the matching process, but in The Love Game, a panel of “celebrities” (mostly soapie stars from the network) played matchmaker. It took the show away from the contestants and put it into the hands of actors who weren’t sure how to treat the concept.
Celebrity matchmakers included Denise Drysdale, Noeline Brown, Peter Phelps, Geraldine Turner, Terry Willesee and Red Symons.
Having been paired up by the celebrity panellists, the couple then faced “The Love Machine”, which looked like a cross between a mechanical triffid and a giant hairdryer and which determined the level of attraction between the lucky winners.
The machine was actually a column of lights attached to a heat-sensitive plate. When the contestants’ hands were placed on the plate, the Love Machine measured how hot and sweaty their palms were, registered their compatibility accordingly and awarded them an appropriate prize. The greater the compatibility, the better the prize. So if a couple got Tasmania, they knew they’d struck out.
Off-camera, the production crew referred to it as the “orgasmatron” or “the phallus palace” (because of its shape).
The show did not rate well and after only two months, Channel 7 dumped Holden as host and replaced him with Melbourne radio DJ and Countdown voice-over man, Gavin Wood.
But only two weeks after he joined, the plug was pulled completely and The Love Game was gone by the end of October with the final transmission airing on Friday 19 October.