Angela Henderson-Bentley: ‘Celebrity Dating Game’ rises to a new level of quirkiness


Most of the time after watching the screener of a show, I have a pretty good idea what I want to say. But every now and then a show leaves me a little speechless as I try to figure out what I just saw. And that is definitely the case after watching ABC’s “The Celebrity Dating Game.” I mean, I knew it was going to be quirky, but this show is on a whole other level for which I wasn’t prepared.

A reboot of the classic game show, “The Dating Game,” the show features bachelors and bachelorettes asking three suitors they cannot see questions like, If I were a frozen pizza, how would you warm me up? The twist is that the bachelors and bachelorettes looking for love are celebrities and the potential dates have no idea who the celebrity is. The celebrities include Iggy Azalea, Joey Lawrence, Chris Kattan, Carson Kressley and Taye Diggs.

The show is hosted by Zooey Deschanel (“New Girl”). Her co-host is Grammy winner Michael Bolton, who chimes in during the questioning with dry, witty commentary. But his main purpose is to offer clues to the celebrity’s identity by singing a parody song filled with hints. At the end of the show, the celebrity’s identity is revealed, and they choose the person with whom they would like to go on a date.

Deschanel gets off to an awkward start, but finds her stride by the second episode. She is quirkier than ever, as sometimes she seems to be really enjoying herself and other times, she appears to be making fun of the whole thing. Bolton’s song is the highlight of each episode as he sounds better than ever and the songs are actually very clever. His twist on “I Found Someone” (the Cher smash, which Bolton wrote) in the first episode is especially strong.

But in order for the show to work at all, the questions and answers have to be entertaining, and they fall pretty flat in the premiere with former Bachelorette and “Dancing With the Stars” winner Hannah Brown. But the second episode with comedian Nicole Byer features a much livelier exchange, especially when one suitor compares love to a trip to the bathroom. The celebrities are not what you would call major superstars, but the majority of them are recognizable enough to still be worth watching.

ABC has scored big with its reboots of classic game shows, but even as I write this, I’m still not totally sure about this one. But it is harmless fun at a time when we still could use more of that, so I’m good with it. And anything that gets Bolton continuing his “Captain Jack Sparrow” silliness can’t be all bad.

“The Celebrity Dating Game” premieres at 10 p.m. Monday, June 14, on ABC.

Angela Henderson-Bentley writes about television for HD Media. Contact her at

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