Matched in Manhattan



9:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4

Lifetime seems to have the whole human interaction equation a little bit backward in its new Friday night reality programming block. It follows Carson Kressley's "How to Look Good Naked" with "Matched in Manhattan," which is, essentially, "How to Look Good in Clothes." Isn't "naked" supposed to come after "clothes"? Just asking is all.

Given the venue, it's a safe bet that "Matched" is going to approach the dating game from the woman's perspective. On that score, it doesn't disappoint. The real issue with this half-hour is its host/relationship guru Matt Titus, who is said to specialize in helping straight women and gay men find Mr. Right rather than Mr. Right Now. What turns us off about the ultraconfident, know-it-all Titus is that he claims to have all the answers about what makes people click. He deals in absolutes in a world that's all about unpredictability, chemistry and mystery.

Unfortunately, unscripted TV doesn't have much use for subtlety or shades of gray -- hence, the cloying idea that one chatterbox dude has this whole romance thing all figured out. If he says it enough on TV, it must be true. Right?

In the opener of this show set in Gotham, Titus -- described as "New York's premier professional relationship expert and dating coach" and co-author with his wife, Tamsen Fadal (also on the show), of the forthcoming book, "Why Hasn't He Called?" -- gives a "Matt-a-morphosis" to a confidence-challenged 30-year-old Tennessee transplant named Selene. He coaches her on her wardrobe, her apartment (bag the Hello Kitty motif), her hair, her makeup and her conversation (stick to the here and now and avoid discussing anything of genuine substance on the first date). It's all common-sense stuff, delivered with self-righteous certainty in face-to-face meetings with Dr. Know.

Fast-paced and relentlessly upbeat, "Matched in Manhattan" works up a sweat to peddle the notion that finding love is as simple as following the directions on a box of cake mix. But here's a word of advice to the lovelorn: Television is not going to provide the key that unlocks a lifetime of future bliss. Only the Internet can do that.