Notoriously difficult to find online, Flavor of Love, the show following Public Enemy’s Flava Flav on his quest for love, is my guilty pleasure and my new obsession.
The premise sounds remarkably similar to NextEntertainment’s The Bachelor- twenty women fight over one man, the winner wins a ring and a lifetime of appearances on minor reality TV shows, the losers fade into obscurity. But MTV had other ideas.
The resulting show was so far removed from the simpering piano music and wistful glances we’ve become accustomed to on other dating shows that it’s become a cult hit in its own right. It’s The Bachelor’s wilder, funnier and nastier cousin, with far more nudity.
From the opening titles there’s no denying the show is a huge exercise in ego for Flav. The lyrics to the theme song are essentially ‘Flava Flaaaaaaaav’ on a loop, while clipart style images of bikini clad women spin around Flav’s mansion. As the real Flav appears laying back in a throne, draped in furs with his signature clock round his neck, screaming his own name, we have to admit – damn that man’s name is catchy!
He enters the room full of women desperately trying to touch the hem of his cloak and kiss his snakeskin-booted feet. As he surveys the room, waiting for the crying girls to compose themselves, he smiles the smile of a man who has been waiting for this moment since he was a horny 14 year old. The talking head reel shows every girl declaring their undying love for him, how sweet and gentle this man they’ve never met before is, how much they want to bear his children. It makes you wonder: how did he end up with so much power? Should MTV have made this show, so blatantly gratifying for Flav, yet possibly demeaning for the girls involved?
It would not have been made in 2016, and that’s a good thing – there’s no denying Flavor of Love contains problematic moments. But once you’ve watched Flavor of Love, I guarantee all other reality shows will pale in comparison. Sure, they have their moments – Tyra rooting for Tiffany on America’s Next Top Model, Ian binning his baked Alaska on The Great British Bake Off – but these moments are few and far between, and these shows aren’t really about creating scandal, they’re about modelling, or baking and if there’s drama it’s a bonus. Flavor of Love knows what the people want. And what we want is a contestant to vomit in a bin minutes before elimination and survive. We want a woman to cook a full chicken in a microwave, garnish it with raw carrots and serve it to her potential mother in law. We want the catfights, the hair pulling, the hot tub sabotages and the ridiculous nicknames. We want it all, and Flavor of Love gives it to us on a diamond incrusted platter. It’s trashy, it’s offensive, but I can’t look away. Never change, Flav.