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‘Matchmaker’ caters to millionaires on Bravo

Thu., Feb. 12, 2009

By accident or design, Bravo has become a cable network concerned with the rich and the people who serve them.

“Flipping Out,” “Work Out,” “Blow Out,” “Million Dollar Listing,” “Welcome to the Parker,” “The Rachel Zoe Project” – show after show highlights various facets of what might be called the luxury service industries (in which people become rich, or try to, catering to the very rich), while the popular “Real Housewives” franchise just looks at the moneyed straight on.

Given that we are in the middle of a financial meltdown/free-fall/apocalypse, one might think that the problems of people with too much money would have lost their entertainment value. But one would apparently be wrong.

“The Millionaire Matchmaker” begins its second season tonight (10 p.m., cable channel 65 in Spokane, 66 in Coeur d’Alene). Following the adventures of a real-world modern Dolly Levi – Patti Stanger of the Millionaire’s Club – it is in some ways the most disturbing of these shows, in that it traffics in humans.

A dating service for rich people too busy or too immature or just too used to paying other people to get their business done, the Millionaire’s Club is described on its Web site as a place where wealthy men can “be introduced to exceptionally beautiful women in a relaxing, discreet and confidential manner” – and if that sounds like high-class prostitution to you, Stanger begs to differ.

She may advise her girls to wear stiletto heels and show a lot of leg and a modicum of pushed-up cleavage, but she is fundamentally an old-fashioned sort of yenta, with plenty of rules about sex and commitment.

Stanger flies off the handle at clients who break her rules and overstates for dramatic purposes the problems with featured millionaires. But overall she doesn’t seem to be as much of a handful as some of her brothers and sisters in Bravo-dom, which from a certain angle might be seen as a mark against her show.

The opening episode features two contrasting young millionaires: Bret, who makes a pink energy drink for women, and David, who runs a fashion catalog. Bret seems to be the evening’s catch, while David is so full of himself that it slops out onto the floor. The ending, as they say, will surprise you.

Next week brings a female millionaire, Heidi – 41, a single mother and the head of a clothing line – which lets Stanger (who is older than 40 herself) rant against ageism.

If never especially compelling, the series is mildly diverting and only occasionally revolting. And it’s nice to be reminded, at least, that money doesn’t buy happiness, only expensive advice.

Tags: television

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