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GAME, SET, MATCH : GIVING NEW MEANING TO SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST, HIP, WELL-TONED YOUNG ADULTS APPEAR ON MTV TO BE `SINGLED OUT' FOR A CHANCE AT ROMANCE.

Byline: Alicia Doyle Daily News Staff Writer

Poor Arie Phillips.

She wants a boyfriend who's honest, spontaneous and driven, but she gets stuck with men ``obsessed'' with her tan, curvy body.

``When they're after only one thing, it really turns me off,'' said the 23-year-old Pasadena woman. ``I want a man to want me for me.''

Thanks to one of cable's hottest shows, Phillips may have found her match - a snazzily dressed aspiring musician three years her junior.

Phillips chose him out of 50 bachelors presented to her on MTV's ``Singled Out,'' the latest in a long line of television dating shows.

``You never know what's out there,'' said Phillips, a clothing store manager.

The music network's first dating show, which debuted last spring, is sexy like Fox TV's old ``Studs,'' with the lurid appeal of Chuck Woolery's ``Love Connection.''

``Singled Out'' targets the 18-year-olds to 20-somethings who are typically ignored in dating shows, said Lisa Berger, executive producer. The short-lived ``Bzzz'' a syndicated show that ran on KTLA (Channel 5) early last season, tried but failed.

The music network, which attracts 62.6 million viewers, claims ``Singled Out'' is one of its most successful shows. (No one tracks cable viewership.)

``Just the fact that you have 50 single guys and 50 single girls on the set at the same time, with sort of this party atmosphere, makes people look at it and want to be part of the party,'' Berger said.

It helps to have a hostess with the mostest. MTV recruited former Playboy Playmate of the Year Jenny McCarthy to host the half-hour show with Chris Hardwick, 24, who was discovered as a ``Studs'' contestant.

``MTV has allowed me to express my own personality,'' said McCarthy, 23, who was picked out of a casting call.

The rules of the show, taped in a Burbank studio, are simple:

A single gal or guy - simply dubbed a ``picker'' - sits with his or her back turned to 50 potential dates, all between the ages of 18 and 25 and from as far away as Santa Barbara, Bakersfield and Las Vegas.

Eligibles are eliminated in the first round through a series of body-centric categories, such as ``Moussed'' or ``Could Give a &$'' to describe hairstyles and ``Meat,'' ``Rotten Meat'' or ``Maggot Infested Meat'' to indicate age (hint: maggot infested means you're between 23 and 25).

Ten or fewer make it to the ``Keep 'Um or Dump 'Um'' round, where contestants indulge in blueberry pie eating, pig calling, egg fighting or some other zany test to prove they're up to snuff.

Mechelle Sherman of Woodland Hills, for instance, was told to let out a high-pitched scream when she appeared on a recent episode. Like many contestants, Sherman was recruited at a bar - in this case, Yankee Doodles on Victory Boulevard in Woodland Hills.

But Sherman's vocal chords didn't pass muster. She was eliminated after the second round. No matter.

``It was fun, but not my way of wanting to meet somebody,'' Sherman, 24, said.

Only three contestants make it to the ``Horse Race,'' where they try to anticipate how the picker will answer certain questions. Jay Eusebio of Diamond Bar earned a date with Phillips when he matched her responses to these probing questions:

``Tori Spelling: got her job because of her talent or because of her dad?''

``Quiet people: deep or just quiet?''

``What's scarier? Earthquakes or twisters?''

``I was shocked,'' said Eusebio, who won a helicopter ride and dinner with Phillips. ``I hope she doesn't mind that I'm younger.''

Not all are so pleased with the results.

``When some pickers see their date, there's this look of disappointment,'' said McCarthy. Word has it that only eight of the couples created on ``Singled Out'' have become serious. ``But usually, they're more excited than they expected to be - they found the right guppie.''

While some may snicker at the absurd obstacles that contestants must overcome, dating shows like ``Singled Out'' are popular because everyone can relate, said ``Love Connection's'' Woolery.

``It's so common to all of us,'' said Woolery, who saw 35 blind dates end up in marriage during his 11-year stint on ``Love Connection.'' ``When you see someone on the air, all of their experiences hit close to home. There are all sorts of emotions evoked by watching these kinds of shows.''

Dating shows are popular with advertisers, catering to an audience they want to reach - the elusive 18 to 25 demographic that represents the big consumers of tomorrow, say media buyers.

``When you look at dating game shows today, you see a lot of bright, attractive young people,'' said Bill Croasdale of Western International Media, a media management company in Los Angeles. ``That's how the producers, networks and cable are going after that audience.''

And how. Appearance is the first thing the contestant coordinators look for when recruiting for the show, as they search at amusement parks, colleges and night clubs. While the contestants come in all sizes and ethnicities, their clothes vary from Lycra shorts and tight skirts to oversize slacks and baby-doll T-shirts. Some have mohawks and tattoos.

Others have pierced noses, lips and eyebrows.

``We want good contestants, so pickers are happy with what they choose,'' said Sally Colon, contestant coordinator. ``But we also want personality - someone who's hyper, has lots of energy and just wants to have fun.''

Pickers are typically scouted from previous tapings, where their on-screen amateur talent made a good impression. Others are simply referred.

Shawn Cunningham, 20, of Los Angeles decided to give ``Singled Out'' a shot after his roommate, a former picker, passed on his name to producers. His ideal gal is someone smart, creative and unique who has a sense of fashion.

Will he meet her on national TV?

``I'm just playing it by ear,'' Cunningham said. ``It's a go-with-the-flow type of thing. If anything, it will be fun to go out and act like an a-- for a while on national TV.''

Producer Mark Cronin said there's no message to ``Singled Out,'' nor does the show try to solve life's dating woes.

``The show is simply a microcosm of what the actual date selection process is really like,'' Cronin said.

Still, finding the perfect mate may be better off left to fate, Hardwick said.

``There's no 100 percent pure method of meeting somebody,'' he said. ``You never know who's got the baggage, and when it's going to come out.''

McCarthy believes the show's appeal lies in its ``goofy'' parody of the real-life dating process.

``There are a lot of weirdos out there,'' said McCarthy. ``But there are a lot of fishes in the sea. Some people get desperate when they're single, and settle. Don't ever settle. Find the one - find the right guppie.''

THE FACTS The show: ``Singled Out.''

Where: MTV.

When: 7 and 11 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9:30 a.m. Saturdays, 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays.

CAPTION(S):

5 Photos

Photo: (1--Cover--Color) THE DATING GAME

MTV targets lov e (Gen-X style) in `Singled Out'

(Contestant Arie Phillips with hostess Jenny McCarthy)

(2--Color) ``Singled Out'' host Chris Hardwick, 24, asks contestants to select which category they'll use to begin selecting their date.

(3--Color) Contestant Arie Phillips, second from right, meets her date, Jay Eusebio, second from left. Hosts Chris Hardwick and Jenny McCarthy urge them on.

(4--Color) Hostess McCarthy punches up the sex appeal as she playfully boxes contestant Chris Rock.

(5) Never lacking for energy, McCarthy lets out a yell while mingling with contestants.

Terri Thuente/Daily News
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 26, 1996
Words:1256
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