The untold truth of Hear Me, Love Me, See Me

The TLC limited series Hear Me, Love Me, See Me set out to answer the age old question as to whether or not love could truly be blind. In each of three episodes in 2018, a single woman in search of real, everlasting love spends the day in the life of three potential suitors. She gets to see their daily routine, and, in a way, has the opportunity to actually experience a first date with them… all from the comfort of her sofa.

Hear Me, Love Me, See Me sets itself apart from other reality dating shows in that the “dates” the series’ women go on are experienced via a GoPro strapped to each potential suitor’s chest — which means that her choice will be made based solely on personality, and without the benefit of actually seeing what each man looks like. It’s essentially a modern, digital spin on the old The Dating Game. But what kind of woman agrees to date a man she’s never seen? And is it really all that different from other shows in the trying-to-find-love genre? Here’s everything there is to know about the reality TV series Hear Me, Love Me, See Me.

It's one in a long line of successful reality TV shows

The show Hear Me, Love Me, See Me comes from 495 Productions, a company that boasts “one of the most diverse, entertaining and commercially successful rosters of reality programming on television.” It’s famous for creating pretty much every hit reality TV show you’ve ever heard of — from MTV’s Jersey Shore to Spike’s Tattoo Nightmares to HGTV’s Design Star. Although 495 Productions has been at the forefront of TV since 2007, its founder and president, SallyAnn Salsano, has been in the game for much longer. She actually started as an intern on Sally Jesse Raphael and Howard Stern before moving on to The Bachelor in 2002.

Salsano’s success in the reality TV genre likely has a lot to do with her attitude towards it. In an interview with Juliet Litman for The Ringer, Salsano explained how there are enormous possibilities for reality TV. She said, “I do think there are so many different ways to advertise and to reach people, which opens up a whole new door.” She also thinks it takes a different kind of person to make it in the genre, saying, “I think to be a reality TV star, you have to be extremely strong, because you’re putting yourself out there and you’re basically saying, ‘This is it. This is me.'”

It launched at Cannes

In 2014, FremantleMedia acquired a majority stake in Salsano’s company, 495 Productions. The media giant, which is known for shows like The Price is Right and The X-Factor, launched the format for Hear Me, Love Me, See Me at MIPTV in Cannes in April 2016, according to RealScreen.

Networks in both Israel and Italy picked up a version of the series, with Israel’s Channel 10 planning a four-episode first season, while Italy’s Fox Life took a chance on ten episodes. Chris O’Dell, head of global entertainment production for FremantleMedia, released a statement that said, “The format puts an entertaining and modern spin on the dating genre which results in a fun, authentic and very versatile series.”

In India, a version called Hear Me. Love Me. was released in September 2018 and distributed by Amazon Prime Video. Of the several iterations the show has been through, this is the one that seems to be the most successful, with ten episodes hosted by Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty Kundra.

You might recognize its host

Christine Lakin serves as the host of the American version of Hear Me, Love Me, See Me. The actress got her big break in Hollywood as a kid when she landed the role of Al on the ’90s series Step by Step. She’s racked up over 100 acting credits in her career, including a few that have garnered award recognition, both good and bad. In 2013, Lakin and the cast of Police Guys won for outstanding cast performance at the Action on Film International Film Festival. But only a few short years earlier, she shared the worst screen couple award at the Razzies with The Hottie & the Nottie co-stars Paris Hilton and Joel David Moore.

In an interview with Double Talk, Lakin spoke with the Loesch twins about her reasons for doing the TLC series. She explained how difficult it is to be an honest version of yourself when you’re dating in the digital age, and the show gives its participants the chance to do just that. “You’re sort of forced to ask real questions, because there’s not a lot of other superficial stuff that you’re hanging on. That’s what makes it so unique,” she said.

Lakin doesn't sway decisions, but she has her own opinions

During each episode of Hear Me, Love Me, See Me, Lakin joins the participants on their virtual dates, offering up her own advice or takeaways. But her involvement with each woman is way more involved than just a little date commentary. In an interview with Hollywood Life, Lakin explained, “Before we even get into the date, we are talking about their past relationships and what happened or why it didn’t work out and what they are looking for and what is important to them.”

By getting to the core of what each woman is looking for and why, Lakin is better equipped to act as a proper dating advice guru — and friend — for them. But while she does make it a point to talk about everything that happens with each woman, Lakin is very clear that her role on the series isn’t to try and make their decisions for them. She told Hollywood Life, “I do keep in check with them and talk about everything that happens. I don’t push them but I am along for the ride and try my best to help them!”

It's the anti-Tinder of modern dating

Dating apps like Bumble and Tinder are the norm today, but how much of the filtered and hashtagged online version of a person can you really trust? As Lakin explained to Double Talk, the experience of being on Hear Me, Love Me, See Me is truly akin to a blind date, where everything that can be seen acts as a personality clue. “You’re like, Ooh, look at his hands! Ooh, he looks nervous, he’s pacing around. What was that thing he was making back there? Is that his dog?” The fact that a decision has to be made without ever seeing a profile pic only adds to the authenticity of the experience.

For Lakin, that’s the biggest difference — being forced to actually learn something about the person you’re potentially going to date as opposed to just quickly swiping. “I felt like this [the show] was just such a unique way to use our digital age, but in a completely opposite manner, so that you really get to know these people,” she said. “You get to talk to them before making and passing a judgment on a two-second version of, Oh, I don’t think that guy is my type.”

And it's something of a social experiment

The fact that Hear Me, Love Me, See Me has taken digital dating and flipped it on its head is what attracted Lakin to the project. It’s likely also what makes it so appealing to such a wide, international audience. Host Christine Lakin explained to Hollywood Life in March 2018 that the series forces women to ask the bigger questions, “as you would in the old fashioned days,” when the dating pool was a little more limited to people you met through friends or at a bar.

“You connected with someone in a much more meaningful way,” she said, explaining that the show is a little bit of a “social experiment” in the sense that the women who appear on it have to learn to set aside any preconceived notions of what their actual type is. Lakin noticed how some of the women surprised themselves by their attraction to men that, upon the reveal, they realized were not typically who they’d go for. Hear Me, Love Me, See Me is really about getting back to basics. According to Lakin, “It shows if love is blind and maybe it should be!”

The show is interactive (sort of)

The format of Hear Me, Love Me, See Me opens itself up to more viewer interaction than other reality (and other dating) shows do. SallyAnn Salsano, founder of 495 Productions, spoke with Cupid’s Pulse about the way each woman on the show “dates” her potential matches and how it differs from traditional dating shows. They aren’t going on actual dates. Instead, they’re watching each man’s daily routine — they’re seeing his friends and family, as well as his hobbies. For viewers at home, they’re kind of experiencing doing the same thing.

From her position as “wing woman,” Lakin said on her website that she enjoys her view from the outside looking in. “I loved getting to experience this ‘social experiment’ as a fly on the wall and found it so interesting how we, in this digital day and age, tend to judge a book by its cover all too often.” According to Salsano, this sort of fly on the wall experience is appealing on a larger scale as well. She told Cupid’s Pulse that the concept behind Hear Me, Love Me, See Me “received great feedback” when it was shopped to networks. 

The contestants are really open-minded

What does it take to agree to go on a dating show where you’ll have to make a decision about a person without ever actually seeing them? For the women on Hear Me, Love Me, See Me, it’s all about being fed up with the current state of dating. Lakin told Double Talk that the women on the show have “all done that stuff, and it hasn’t worked out.” She continued, “I think the idea of doing something completely different — it’s sort of like, at this point, why not? Why wouldn’t I try something that I’ve never tried before?”

Lakin drew comparisons to The Bachelor, saying that the people who originally went on the show probably went in without any expectation of finding true love, but it’s managed to work out for a few of them regardless. The women who are coming on to Hear Me, Love Me, See Me have had unsuccessful past relationships and are now at a point where they’re willing to try something new. Lakin said, “I wouldn’t say they’re desperate, but they’re hopeful. I feel like when the other stuff doesn’t work, you know, you should start throwing caution to the wind.”

It's all about going against type

For the women who appear on Hear Me, Love Me, See Me, they’re doing the show because the men they’ve been attracted to in the past — the men they assume to be their “type” — haven’t worked out for them. Hear Me, Love Me, See Me is their opportunity to try something completely new. In an interview with TLC, Merissa explained how her past experiences have affected her current dating habits and what brought her to the series. “I have been through the ringer with guys. I’m always attracted to bad boys. Scruffy beard and long hair and a motorcycle,” she said. “Because of my dating history and being a single mom, I’ve become guarded.”

Kacey, another of the three women, told TLC, “Dating from the inside out, this is the most unique situation that I’ve ever been put into.” Once she had the opportunity to finally meet the man she had chosen to go on a face-to-face date with, however, she realized how important it was to set aside her own expectations. She shared, “On a normal day, I probably wouldn’t approach him, but I’m glad that today wasn’t a normal day.”

Lakin hopes to bring in a wider variety of women

When Lakin wrote about the show on her website, she received a lot of positive response from viewers in the comments. But for one fan, Hear Me, Love Me, See Me could use a little bit of age diversity. When Leanne B. suggested creating a similar show for the over 50 crowd, Lakin was quick to voice her agreement. She wrote, “Love this idea! I honestly hope if we get to do more episodes we see women of all ages!”

Certainly, dating shows for an older crowd have been lacking in the reality TV realm, but they do exist, albeit on something of a smaller scale. In 2015, Southern California news station ABC7 reported on Never Too Late to Date, a community TV show filmed out of Laguna Woods Village senior residence. Phil Doran, a Laguna Woods resident and former writer and producer for the original The Dating Game, created the show. It’s been successful locally, which Doran attributes to the attitude of the senior crowd. “You get to be our age, you don’t give a damn!” he told ABC7. Perhaps the local interest in the over 50 dating game will someday translate to a national audience.

It isn't The Bachelor

While 495 Productions’ SallyAnn Salsano may have worked as supervising producer for The Bachelor, she certainly hasn’t tried to recreate that show with Hear Me, Love Me, See Me. In fact, the TLC series prides itself on being completely different, at least according to host Christine Lakin. In her February 2018 interview with Double Talk, Lakin agreed wholeheartedly with interviewer Cailin Loesch when she brought up The Bachelor and said, “This show is actually different because you at least know that both you and the person you’re going on dates with are open to the idea of dating someone without knowing what they look like.”

Lakin went on to compare the experience of being on Hear Me, Love Me, See Me to how she met her husband. The two were introduced via mutual friends, and their relationship grew organically because she was never trying to impress him with some curated social media persona. According to her, the TLC series Hear Me, Love Me, See Me is the same in that, “You can’t really put that certain version of yourself out there.” Essentially, unlike The Bachelor, first impressions are based on personality, not on looks.

It's unclear if it'll come back for a second season

Although the Hear Me, Love Me, See Me format seems to a pretty popular one, with versions airing in Italy, Israel, and — most popularly — India, a second season of the American version is, at this point, still up in the air. In her interview with Cupid’s Pulse, Salsano said there were “tentative plans” for more episodes following the initial three that have aired, depending on viewer response to the show. 

Viewer response, however, has been pretty lukewarm. The first season has only 2.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon as of this publication, with one reviewer saying, “Don’t waste your time,” while another remarked, “Kinda cute, but not really something I would anticipate from week to week.” 

On her website, Lakin seems hopeful for more episodes. In response to one fan who offered up her friend as a potential contestant, she said, “Hopefully we’ll get more episodes and be able to find lots of deserving people their perfect matches! I would love nothing more.” Only time will tell at this point. The first season aired in March 2018, and, by April 2019, no news regarding a followup season has been released.

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