Opening eyes with `Blind Date’

Feb 19, 2001  •  Post A Comment

With their syndicated strip “Blind Date” now playing on a television near you, David Garfinkle and Jay Renfroe of Renegade 83 haven’t just made it to first base, they’ve hit a home run with ratings success.
Up next to the plate come a host of other relationship-centered reality series with which they hope to continue their winning streak.
Just what is behind this success? Mr. Garfinkle speculated: “If you think of it, the one thing everyone is an `expert’ on is relationships. … They come from such an emotional place.”
Perhaps it is this emotional attachment that beckons viewers to tune in to “Blind Date,” which combines the elements of pop psychology, humorous eye-catching graphics and our cultural fascination with voyeurism and the mating ritual. The show’s cameras follow couples who are set up and sent out to “get to know each other.”
The success of the show has spawned interest in Renegade 83’s upcoming ventures: “The 5th Wheel,” in which two men and two women are sent out in a limousine to get to know each other, only to have their outing “interrupted” by a fifth participant-be it a man, woman, ex-lover or celebrity; “Rendez View,” in which show hosts and a panel of rotating guests do their best “armchair quarterbacking” for taped date segments; and “Chains of Love,” a show Mr. Garfinkle describes as a “social experiment” in which a participant is chained to four members of the opposite sex for a day to allow viewers to see what kind of relationships develop.
Mr. Renfroe has his theories on why the reality genre is doing as well as it is: “Audiences are getting tired of the rhythm of scripted television. I think it’s the same reason people enjoy watching sports: Things are unpredictable. Things happen in reality television that writers could never create. We just can’t write some of the stuff that happens [when we go out to shoot].”
Another innovation Mr. Garfinkle and Mr. Renfroe are proud to take credit for is the integration of the television show “Blind Date” with its online component at www.blinddate.excite.com. Visitors to the site can read show synopses, watch outtakes, place their own personal ads and even try their hand at matching couples for upcoming episodes. The Internet component of “Blind Date” is so compelling that AFI recently selected the show as a subject for its Enhanced Television Workshop.
With the success of “Blind Date” and the doors it is opening for Renegade 83, Mr. Garfinkle can’t help but express his enthusiasm: “We’re excited about this year and what’s going on with this company.”
Such success comes at a price. While Mr. Garfinkle is married, Mr. Renfroe, who is single, admits that being one the producers of the now highly recognized “Blind Date” is not always a boon for his own dating life. “The women I go out with are often worried: `You’re analyzing me!’ [But] these are sacrifices we make,” he said.
David Garfinkle and Jay Renfroe
Ages: David Garfinkle, 41; Jay Renfroe, 41.
Titles: Co-presidents, Renegade 83.
Credits: “Blind Date.”
Projects in the works: “The 5th Wheel,” “Rendez View,” “Chains of Love.”