Gay, Straight or Taken?

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8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 8
Lifetime

God help me, I liked this show. Perhaps this means I'm losing my edge.

Lifetime's "Gay, Straight or Taken?" is all about behavioral and cultural stereotypes (both gay and straight) and features impossibly attractive participants. But I can't deny that it held my interest clear through the momentous choice at the end. Maybe it's because (spoiler alert) the lady doing the choosing -- named "Jenner," no less -- gets it so totally wrong in the pilot premiere (the first of two half-hours packaged for the launch).

As the title leaves little doubt, the gambit in this dating reality show surrounds a woman having to choose which of three men is the only one who is straight and unattached. If she picks either the one with a boyfriend or a girlfriend, that guy gets to share an exotic vacation with his partner. If she gets it right, she gets to accompany Mr. Available.

Mind you, "Gay, Straight or Taken" actually is pretty dumb on its face, hopelessly steeped as it is in simple intuition and the arbitrary. I mean, how is somebody supposed to act taken other than to avoid touching or eye contact or to say, "Sorry, I've got a girlfriend"? And of course, there are all of the usual gay factors put into play here. Is he too fastidious about his appearance or have too many clothes? Does he dance too well? Does he treat me like a fag hag when we play touch football together?

What's great is that after putting the guys through a day of quasi-deep scrutiny, our chooser could not possibly blow it any more completely (trust me, it doesn't really spoil things). Produced by Endemol USA, makers of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (call this one "Extreme Dating: Stereotype Edition"), the show early on makes a convincing case for not being able to tell a book by its cover -- even if it's only because the covers all look pretty much the same. There is something oddly appealing about that.

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