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"Gadget or the Girl?" Maybe none of the above?
Helen Popkin
By
msnbc.com
updated 9/5/2008 9:08:01 AM ET 2008-09-05T13:08:01

Call me a hopeless optimist … and well, you’d be the first. But I had high hopes for Playboy TV’s new dating reality show “Gadget or the Girl?”

This is how the show is promoted on the Playboy TV site: “If you’re given the choice between an awesome gadget and a weekend getaway with a hot girl, sometimes it’s best to go for the sure thing.”

(Wink. Wink.)

My iO Digital Cable package does not include Playboy TV, and when my remote fingeraccidentally stumble one channel past Comedy Central to E’s own Playboy Mansion reality series “The Girls Next Door,” I can’t click fast enough.

It’s not the Bunnies I have issues with — I loathe most every reality series I’ve ever endured for the sake of pop culture education … with the exception of A&E’s “Paranormal State.”

That’s a show about college kids hunting various sundry ghosts and boogie men made palatable by the Southern charm of reoccurring psychic Chip Coffey, the non-offensive good looks of wooden ghost buster leader Ryan Buell … but mostly, the copious use of complicated and exotic ghost-hunting gadgetry.

I really like nifty gadgetry. So when it came to Playboy TV’s new show, it’s the word "Gadget" that caught my eye when the geek blogs started yammering about, "Gadget or the Girl" (on Mondays, 7:30 p.m. ET).

“Gadget or the Girl” sounded like an idea that had reached its time — new twist on an old paradigm, fresh discussion of the veracity of dude/sex/gadgets stereotypes. “Gadget or the Girl” seemed it had a pretty shot at being pretty good … or whatever.

OK, not so much “pretty good” as “mad stupid” — but entertainingly so. Plus the counterintuitive casting of host Iliza Shlesinger, spunky winner from NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” provides at least an eentsy big of credibility. I mean, right?

Boy howdy! Was I ever wrong.

Failing to read the “Gadget or the Girl” press release for comprehension before I requested the review DVD, here’s what I envisioned the show to be … what I really wanted it to be: 

Dude goes on your typical “Blind Date”-style TV outing with both the gal and some nifty bit of high tech vying for his attention. The threesome hit the spa, the lingerie store, yodeling lessons or whatever, drinks, dinner and the obligatory hot tub.

All the while on this date, the sufficiently tarted-up female attempts to distract the male from surfing his potential iPhone or honing routes on the TomTom that could be his … depending on the date’s outcome.

Cutesy pop-ups implying inner dialogues keep the action going as dude debates whether he’s more interested in chicky’s career plans or the gadget’s instruction manual. And the audience, in breathless anticipation, hangs on the show’s every snarky (and insipid) word.

Here’s how "Gadget or the Girl" goes in reality:

Dude sits on couch with spunky hostess Iliza Shlesinger … who is a bit stiff, but still adorable and tiny with alterna-nerd appeal — nothing like the tan-in-a-can bleach blondes one comes to expect on such shows.

Spunky Hostess asks Dude, his favorite part of a woman’s body. In this pilot episode, Dude says something non-scandalous, such as “smile,” and Spunky Hostess punches his arm and accuses him of lying.

From commercials for upcoming “Gadget or the Girl,” this seems to be standard operating procedure … unless of course the Dude in question answers correctly … if he is not “lying” according to Spunky Hostess, the correct answer is “boobs.”

Either way, Spunky Hostess’s script necessitates that this is the only correct answer and that to answer any other way is a lie.

See, in order to proceed with the game, Dude is shown three screens, each featuring a different set of bikini-clad female breasts. Dude must then eliminate the first of three lady contestants going on these qualifications alone.

Dude in the pilot went against expectations, I suppose, by eliminating the set that seemed the least … let’s see how he put it … “animated” (i.e. stiff and unbouncy, in that obviously silicone way). Then it was off to the spa date with the two remaining lady contestants, the shorter one of which became quickly drunk and obnoxious, leading to a lady-on-lady topless massage that nobody, especially Dude, seemed especially interested in.

Playboy TV "Gadget or the Girl" Show Host Iliza Shlesinger
Playboy TV
Counterintuitive casting of host Iliza Shlesinger, spunky finalist from NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” provided at least an eentsy big of credibility. I mean, right?

Long story short, Dude eliminates Drunk Chick only to learn that axing her means losing his chance to win an arcade console featuring all the best games of the '80s. (Mistake!) Dude and Remaining Female go on a final contrived date set somewhere by a swimming pool overlooking Los Angeles where Remaining Female attempts the impossible — eating S’mores sensually. Let’s go now to a paraphrase of their dialogue:

Remaining Female (feeding Dude S’more): “What’s that taste like?”

Dude: “Um. I dunno. Home.”

Female: “What’s home taste like?”

Dude: “Um …  what?”

Female: “I asked you what it tastes like and you said ‘home’ and I asked you what ‘home’ tastes like. What’s home taste like?”

UGH! A S’more! Home tastes like a S’more! Dude just told you! With bimbo recall like that, Dude should really go with the mystery gadget. Instead, however …

Back in the studio, Remaining Female learns Dude wins an iPod Boom Bucket for convincing Remaining Female to get naked in the swimming pool. Turns out, an iPod bucket is the perfect prize for the guy for whom getting a chick naked in a pool just isn’t its own reward.

None the less, in the end Dude chose the Las Vegas getaway with Remaining Female rather than the mystery gadget — which turned out to be a home Planetarium of some sort. (Mistake Number Two!) Not that viewers or Dude get to ogle the gadget he might have won — a tiny unsatisfactory thumbnail of the product is instead flashed across the screen. It’s not even good gadgetry porn!

As mentioned previously, I do not subscribe to Playboy TV, so I can’t tell you if this is the quality level achieved by the channel’s entire programming. Since this is an exclusive product of this channel, it’s fairly obvious this show wasn’t made for me … though who it is made for remains a mystery as well.

If it’s soft-core romance one seeks, Cinemax certainly offers a higher quality of entertainment (and that ain’t sayin’ much). Despite the obligatory toplessness seemingly required by the female contestants, you’ll see racier fare on late night “Girls Gone Wild” commercials. And it sure ain’t for geeks, who are well aware that both tech and people porn abound on the Internet.

Now, excuse me while I go watch a real geek turn-on — “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” just became available for free on Hulu — all three episodes!

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