As the 2015 season ends and the audiovisual market is in full swing, it seems impossible to deny that the incursion of the internationally distributed format Adam seeks Eve in France was one of the highlights of this year.
A single man or woman is looking for love and travels to some picture-perfect beach to strip naked opposite two contenders. Once they’ve gotten rid of all their tricks, the abashed lovers spend a weekend together, cut off from the outside world, to get to know each other. Eventually, the participants have to call the name of the suitor that won them over. Then comes the last part of the show: the contestants get their clothes back and see each other all dressed, as they are in their everyday life, and the successful contender decides whether he wants, indeed, to continue the adventure off camera, out of Eden.
Produced by Ah ! Productions, hosted by Caroline Ithurbide and broadcast on D8, the 6 episodes of the french adaptation were met with some good ratings but didn’t enthrall the crowds either.
As a matter of fact, setting aside the first episode – which attracted close to 1.3 million french viewers for a 4.9% audience share, out of curiosity presumably – the five others gathered 730.000 viewers on average, only 2.8% of the audience share.
730 000 voyeurs?
What can we make of these disappointing results, even when the format, fresh out of the Netherlands where it was a huge hit, spread successfully to many countries? These numbers are underwhelming considering that nudity is more and more common on our screens and that, when it comes to reality TV, the trend of undressing cast members is booming.
Nudism on a global scale
Before he arrived in France, Adam started looking for Eve in the Netherlands. The Dutch got to know Adam zkt. Eva in March 2014 on RTL5, and it was an instant success: the audience share of this time slot tripled.
The german channel RTL Television was the first one to follow the model and air six episodes in August. The Spanish quickly turned to nudism since the Cuatro channel started broadcasting the format in October 2014. Once again it was a hit, 2.81 million viewers watched the season on average, or 14.8% of the audience share. A second season should start next fall.
Denmark and Finland followed with success too. Then it was Poland and Australia : they didn’t produce their own version but used the original dutch show, with subtitles. Italy should have its own sexy dating show at the end of the summer of 2015.
The United States had their share of nudity as well. VH1 programmed the similar Dating naked in July 2014, with limited success however: 800.000 viewers instead of the 1.5 million expected.
To blur or not to blur?
When you take a look at all the different adaptations and their varying degrees of success, it seems that one key element in terms of audiences is the matter of the genital blurring.
The countries where the show didn’t work that well were also the most restrictive and prudish – France among them. Antoine Henriquet, producer of the french version, explained in Daphné Bürki’s Le Tube that the blurring of the genitalia was a crucial phase in the development of the show: they had to do it frame by frame and it took between three and four days for an episode – cross-checking included. Three people worked on the show as full-time cock blurrers. It takes time and hard work for Adam and Eve to go back to their natural state !
The Dutch, the Danish and the Spanish – to name but a few – didn’t bother with this and embraced the original concept of the show, that is: naked dating.
The choice lies indeed with the channel and not with the format. Antoine Henriquet confirmed it: season 1 cast members of the french version didn’t know their genitalia would be blurred. The channel decides what it wants to show and to conceal. In France, D8 chose to blur penises and anuses but to keep breasts and butts as they are.
This decision might seem contradictory since, as the producer reminded us, nudity is the essence of the concept.
The naked issue
The rule at the core of the show is precisely to expose contestants who look like us, and bring out the voyeur in each of us. The ratings of the first episodes of each version are good evidence of this natural curiosity.
This is also why Adam seeks Eve caused a stir wherever it was broadcast. In France, Enora Malagré, a presenter in Touche pas à mon poste, said to be « ashamed that such a show would be broadcast on [her] channel », ending superbly with « new bullshit is still bullshit ».
Trash TV or social experiment, as argued by the channel, it prompted a heated and lively debate. Accused of perverse, foul and voyeuristic intentions, confronted by all those offended that such a show should be aired in prime time on a mainstream channel, D8 defended its program by saying this kind of televised rewriting of the biblical story had the benefit of displaying not-so-perfect bodies, for those seeking authenticity. Adam seeks Eve might then be the realization of a return to the state of nature, an extreme romantic experience.
Contestants are buck naked and that’s fun, but there’s not much going on apart from that. No Survivor-like challenges and games, no elaborate and glamorous production à la Bachelor, just a few people leapfrogging in their birthday suits or babbling with their privates on a swing. In short, nothing to get your teeth into. Each episode lasts 52 min., so you don’t even get to really care about your wannabe Genesis figures.
Everyday TV gets trashier, and with the increase in television offerings, it takes more than two blurry naked bodies to attract viewers and get them to stay. While Antoine Henriquet is ready to shoot a second season for France, he’d better hear this message to see his audience share climax: either more sex and nudity, or better writing. In TV as in love, inbetween is never the way to go.
Translated by Magui.