Mother-and-son Master Matchmakers JoAnn and Steve Ward are back for a whole new type of Tough Love. As always, Steve will be checking in with weekly commentary on each episode via this blog. Below, he talks about tonight’s premiere, which couple he fought to get on the show and why he thinks Mario’s relationship problems are tied to his culture.
How was the filming of the show?
Awesome. It was awesome. The whole experience was awesome. The whole production just stepped it up this season.
I know that you touch on it in the show’s intro, but you have sort of a background as a matchmaker in advising married couples?
Think about it, Rich: I set two people up, they start going out for a period of time, and then you get a phone call from one person being like, “Hey, I’m available again,” or, “Let me know if you have another match.” I’ll talk to the other person and they’re like, “Uh, no. Me and so-and-so are still doing well, we hit a little rough patch but yadda yadda yadda.” Next thing you know, there’s these two people with conflicting stories and obviously they’re not on the same page. So I have to sit down with the two of them and talk through what I’ve noticed to try and figure out at least what the hell is going on so nobody is in the dark. When you make a match, they’re both clients. You have a responsibility to look out for the best interest of both individuals. So in the event that a relationship forms, they’re still both clients and they both need that representation.
It’s interesting that the Tough Love franchise is proceeding the way that your work process does: from singles to couples.
I like the idea of something different this time around. It seems like there higher stakes this time, too, with proposal being the climax of the season.
Like I said, everything is stepped up.
It seems like your mom is more involved more this time around, too.
Yeah, we’re both executive producers now, and we worked our asses off. From casting, to creating challenges, to off-camera producing, to getting people to get on the same page, you name it, we did everything. Second season my mom was back-and-forth between coasts, but with this one, she was around the entire time. We insisted that she be more involved, and that was helpful. She’s been married for more than 25 years. We needed her to be that example of a happily married woman. Somebody that these couples should revere and look up to.
You’ve never dealt with guys before on camera. Immediately, they’re all taken aback at how you’re addressing them and their women. Was this element of male aggression at all intimidating?
No, I don’t get intimidated. Nothing intimidates me except physical risk. I don’t jump out of airplanes, I don’t bungee jump, I don’t get on motorcycles, I don’t swim in deep dark water. But people? No. Nobody intimidates me.
You handpicked these couples, right?
Yeah, I did. Me and my mom. It came down to it where we had to face the network executives and we had to convince producers to let us work with certain people we wanted to work with. I fought for Dustin and Courtney the most. They’re the youngest, they’re relatable, they’re all-American Barbie and Ken, they’re from the Midwest. They’ve been together for eight years, they live together but they live in different rooms. It’s like my grandparents. What’s the point? I was determined to figure out what the problem was. And I did! Of course.
Let’s go through your initial impressions on the rest of the couples.
Dennis and Simone: Beautiful couple. They have a great life. My question was: since they live together and he was raising her kids, why would he walk out on her? Why would he get cold feet? What is it that’s preventing him from taking that next step? I figured out quickly that his mom had something to do with it.
You played that wedding “objection” from her. Did you have one of those for each couple?
Yeah, we had commentary for everyone but you just saw that one.
How about Mario and Christina?
This guy is the quintessential Italian American male. The problem is that he still has that Italian culture mentality. I think he really felt that he would be sacrificing something by being monogamous — that he was giving up something by being faithful to his girl. And I really needed to get him looking at fidelity a little differently than he had been. Christina’s not completely innocent, though. She has a lot that she was responsible for, too. Let me tell you something: the reason why we worked with these 12 people is because each one of them was contributing to the dysfunction of their relationship. One hand washes the other, you know what I mean?
How about Ryan and Axelle?
Basically I put them two on the show because she’s on this war path and acting venomous, and now I’m like, “Alright, look, this guy is never going to be the guy that you want him to be if you’re going to keep being like this.” He was making himself a doormat and it was clearly because he was carrying all this guilt. He’s basically a kid. I had to make him grow up a little bit.
Larry and Heather?
Or what we would affectionately call “Leather.” Larry essentially left her because he couldn’t deal with the bickering, the drama, so he just up and moved out when they were living together. Then, basically he couldn’t stop thinking about her, she couldn’t stop thinking about him. I think six months or a year went by and they tried getting back together, except technically she wouldn’t be his girlfriend. I was trying to do my very best to basically convince her that she wanted a relationship, even if she won’t put a label on it. They were both monogamous – sleeping together, not talking to anyone else. They came on the show! They were in a relationship!
Finally, there’s Pawel and Danielle.
Pawel is full-blown metrosexual. Danielle, as a result of her childhood and basically having to be the strongest one in her family, wears the pants in their relationship. They have no sex life, they have no communication between the two of them. Basically, as far as I was concerned, they were roommates. I couldn’t see any romantic connection between the two of them yet they go around saying that they love each other. They’ve been together for three-and-a-half years and I was like, “This is not a way to live.” I had to get through to them, and I did. I made tremendous progress with the both of them. I was really excited about that.