Tough Love

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Tough Love TV Poster Image
Matchmaker boot camp mixes real advice and sexist messages.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The series offers some positive advice about feeling self confident and being assertive and positive. But it also has plenty of sexist messages about how men view women and what women have to do to attract them. Some of the women seem greedy, insecure, and/or desperate to "find a man." One contestant is nicknamed "The Ball Buster" for being too cold and potentially too aggressive. Not a lot of cast diversity. One contestant refers to an African-American male as being "chocolate," but she intends the comment to be positive.


The women often get defensive when they're being given advice, and catty arguments often break out among the contestants. One participant gets angry and starts breaking things.


Some strong innuendo, as well as some hugging and kissing. Some of the women like to wear tight, revealing bathing suits and/or blouses to get attention. One contestant is a former stripper (and is briefly shown swinging around a pole) and claims to have slept with at least 100 men. Men offering feedback about the women note which women they would "go to bed with" vs. "bring home to mom."


Words like "hell," "ass," and "whore" and expressions like "OMG" and "that's retarded" are clearly audible. Curse words like "s--t," "f--k," and "dick" are bleeped.


The women are given Altell cell phones. Occasionally Los Angeles-area businesses like Allen-Edward Salon and Spa are prominently featured. Mark Warden drives a BMW. There are references to texting on an iPhone and to Google. The series is also a promotional vehicle for Steven Ward.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Visible consumption of wine, champagne, and cocktails.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this reality series -- in which a male matchmaker offers blunt advice to women desperate to be in a relationship -- sends sexist messages about both men and women and what they expect from each other when it comes to dating. It's also got all the other expected trappings of a reality show, including strong language (the worst is bleeped, but there's plenty that's not), catty arguing, drinking, and sexual innuendo. The series also serves as a promotional vehicle for the matchmaker and his services, and brands like Altell are prominently featured.

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What's the story?

TOUGH LOVE ostensibly aims to help women break the \"bad habits\" that are keeping them from finding real love. Hosted by self-proclaimed master matchmaker Steve Ward and his veteran matchmaker mother, Joann, the series centers on eight lonely, needy women who've agreed to participate in an eight-week \"boot camp\" designed to prepare them for finding \"Mr. Right.\" In addition to undergoing everything from makeovers to brutally honest feedback, the women must face their own insecurities about themselves and their (in)ability to find and maintain a meaningful relationship.

Is it any good?

The series, which is produced by Drew Barrymore, offers some interesting insight about women and relationships from a clear male perspective. And for those who are trying to jumpstart their dating life and/or find a relationship, the Wards' advice may be helpful. But the show combines decent advice with sexist messages about how women should conform in order to attract men. For example, while the participants are reminded to believe in themselves and about the importance of being comfortable in their own skin, they're also constantly reminded of what they must do to appeal to some of men's more superficial opinions about appearance and weight.

Ward himself comes across as extremely condescending, reminding them that if they follow his rules and believe in him, they'll ultimately find what they are looking for. As a result, there are times when the show also seems like one big ad for his services. And, of course, there's all of the typical behavior you'd expect to see in a reality show like this, including cat fights, strong sexual references, drinking, and lots of bleeped language. Adults may find some of the information dispensed here helpful, but it isn't really meant for -- or appropriate for -- kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the media typically portrays dating and relationships. Do movies and TV shows create unrealistic and/or stereotypical representations of how people are supposed to look, feel, and act in order to meet someone special? Families can also discuss professional matchmaking. Did you know that some cultures still rely primarily on matchmakers to bring couples together?

TV details

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