Local Boy Makes Out

Not that you can see it.

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Chris Hardwick says that he will never, ever go on a blind date.

"I think blind dates in general are really shitty," says the hometown boy and host of Shipmates, a syndicated dating show. "If you're going to set up 10 couples, even if you try really hard for it to work out, nine of them are not going to work out."

On Shipmates a sort of reality-TV version of The Love Boat couples are fixed up for a three-day, two-night date aboard a cruise ship. It could be paradise on the high seas, but if things start to go wrong, that cruise ship could start looking like a prison.

"It's interesting to do it over a three-day period. On a lot of dating shows, they go out one time. I think people tend to be a bit more polite and cordial because they're only spending a few hours together," says Hardwick. "When people spend days trapped on a ship, they tend to be a little more honest in their assessment of the date. Shipmates actually delves deeper into a really horrible part of human behavior, but it's great for television."

Hardwick is the son of professional bowler Billy Hardwick, the owner of Billy Hardwick's All Star Lanes on White Station Road. As the host of Shipmates, Hardwick watches the edited footage and then makes wise-ass comments about the dates, the daters, and the situation in general. Given the possibility of getting stuck on a blind date from hell for 72 hours and the likelihood of public humiliation, it's amazing that anyone would go on Shipmates. But as the proliferation of Blind Date, The Fifth Wheel, Elimidate, and the many other dating shows evinces, people will do anything for love. Or to get on TV.

For Shipmates, possible daters have to fill out a lengthy questionnaire that Hardwick likens to a creepy cult personality quiz. Daters have to include their profession, what they look for in a match, and even answer questions that seem to make no sense at all, such as "Describe a time when you had to assert yourself" and "What animal do you HATE?"

"If we did the show in Los Angeles, it would be a lot of actors wanting to be on television, but we do it out of the East Coast," says Hardwick. "I think it really is just people who want to go on a cruise that's free, have fun, and try to get into someone's pants that they've never met before."

Free cruise? Where do we sign up? We mean that it's no wonder Hardwick is a little wary of blind dates. The former co-host of MTV's Singled Out has noticed some weird reoccurring patterns happening between the daters on the show. For example, women on the show keep thinking the guys they're being set up with are gay, but maybe the presumably gay guy doesn't know it yet. And then there's the weird thing where guys, presumably not the gay ones, keep throwing water in their dates' faces.

In one of the upcoming episodes, the girl thinks her date is gay. After hearing this for a few days, the guy tells her he took two girls up to his room the night before. Then, on the last day, the two make a bet to see who can make out with someone else first. Big surprise, the girl wins easily then immediately makes out with a second stranger before turning to make out with her own date.

"Our show is much more of a nature show, like something you'd see on the Discovery Channel or The Learning Channel," says Hardwick. "You get to see how people interact in different social situations."

Apparently, they make out. With other people. Actually, although the show does try to find people who are compatible, the success rate is not high. But, as they say, there are a lot of fish on a cruise ship.

"Even the couples who hate each other usually give it until the second day to see if it goes any better," says Hardwick. "By the third day, they'll just say, 'You know what? It's not working out. Let's go our own ways,' and then they go off and do other things."

Unfortunately, not many people in Memphis have been able to learn about human behavior from Shipmates. The show, which airs on all top 50 national markets but one, can only be seen in Memphis on Direct TV Channel 381's feed from the CBS station in Los Angeles.

"I always feel stupid when I go back to visit my dad and I see people I've known for years. They'll go, 'What are you doing now?' 'Oh, I'm doing Shipmates.' 'Oh, where's that on?' 'Nowhere you can see it.' It would be nice if I could get the show on in my own hometown," says Hardwick. Maybe he'll get a little more recognition in theaters: He's in House Of 1000 Corpses, which was written and directed by Rob Zombie and is due out this fall. He's also in Terminator 3, due out next July, so stay tuned.

And since most of you can't see the show, we asked Hardwick for some dating advice. His take from all his vicarious dating experience: "Masturbation is a really viable sexual outlet."

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