There are two types of reality shows on Bravo: Talented People Causing Drama (Runway etc.), and People With No Discernible Talent Causing Drama. The latter group is, by definition, crap — but The Millionaire Matchmaker manages to be weirdly awesome.
There's a considerable (and considerably glutted) canon of looking-for-love reality shows: The Bachelor, Beauty and the Geek, Joe Millionaire — I could go on an embarrassing amount. But after the genre was firmly established, each new show was decreasingly compelling (and to that end, thank God Temptation Island was an early entrant, such that we were able to enjoy it for all its trashypants worth). Now, with the possible exception of the possibly immortal Bachelor franchise, romance-driven reality shows are more lame, boring, and predictable than we've already come to expect.
Enter Patti Stanger. Unlike every other mediocre dating show out there, The Millionaire Matchmaker is actually good. Sure, the episodes are repetitive: Nerdy and/or douchebag rich dude needs Patti's help finding a woman who is open to his nerdiness and/or meets his ridiculous expectations; Patti emotionally and psychologically bitch-slaps her clients into making the right decisions and, hopefully, maybe liking a lady from her database for more than the duration of a single date (which, according to one of Patti's former clients, is indeed possible). And if the millionaires don't listen to Patti, things never work out — she's catty, but she's always right. And on next week's episode, the exact same thing will happen again.
And yet I can't peel my eyes away from this show. Matchmaker has a unique brand of the classic Are You Fucking Kidding Me Factor: Rather than being put in an embarrassing situation, the guys are simply an embarrassment to themselves. Usually they are ridiculously arrogant ("I made a million dollars, therefore I am awesome"), and they have even more ridiculous qualifications as to the kind of woman with whom they'd like Patti to help them fall in love. Sex Toy Dave, one client who was into exactly what his nickname suggests, wanted a hottie who was good with a stripper pole, open to swinging, loved to party, had a good career, and was marriage/family material. Godspeed, Asshat.
But this is compelling not just because it allows the viewer to feel superior to the tools on television (which is often the sole appeal in watching these shows, admit it). It's also compelling because, when Patti's not dealing with the occasional lovable loser, the show confirms our worst suspicions and fears about the true nature of some guy we've all met at some point or another: He's a cocky jerk, and he thinks I'm not good enough for him. And it's true! He's right there on the television, being his honest, ugly self! But on Matchmaker, this guy is weakened and put in his pathetic place — and not just because he's judgmental or arrogant, but also because his attitude has gotten him nowhere but alone when he clearly doesn't want to be.
And then there's Patti — who, for all her honest-but-harsh directives, has revealed herself to be as vulnerable in love as the next woman — to hammer that home, serving the justice we crave and letting us vicariously put an asshole loser in his place. Every time she spells out for a guy exactly how he fucked up, or why he can't find the woman of his dreams, we see the men get double the comeuppance: Not only do their dates go poorly when they don't listen to her, but we also get to see the flicker of humiliation in their eyes, knowing that they're going to be dressed down in front of a national audience of smirking women. And who doesn't love a good smirking?