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Dating Service Disaster

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Image courtesy of Nena Martinez.
Used with permission.

"And while I don't know your real name, your real age, or your shoe size,
I will leave this bedroom chair and this keyboard behind."
Noah and the Whale, "Second Lover"

In Real Life, online dating sites and apps are simply another way of meeting people. You create a profile with your picture, beliefs, and hobbies, meet other like-minded users, and chat online until you're both comfortable enough to meet in the flesh. Many a long-term relationship and marriage have begun this way.

...unless you happen to be a character in a Sitcom, in which case the online dating service is yet another tool the writers will employ to turn your life into a swirling miasma of entertaining chaos. In cases of older dating services where photos of the people weren't always readily available, you can expect the first person you're matched up with to be:

Even though current dating services allow users to post pics and advise against chatting with anyone without at least one clear shot of their face, you may still run into other problems:

  • A Con Man or an advance-fee fraudster (very much Truth in Television).
  • An inhuman monster, especially one who'll literally eat your heart out.
  • In a lighter version of the above (as seen in the page image), an animal.
  • A Serial Killer/Rapist.
  • Someone who is actually married, engaged, or in a long-term relationship with someone else. Variants include the person who says they have an an open arrangement when they don't, or the person who says they're separated and beginning divorce proceedings but the divorce isn't final yet...when they're not getting divorced at all. Most other cheaters will hide it, but some will blatantly say they're cheating because they're unhappy or bored with their partner.
  • Someone gorgeous who happens to be an Ax-Crazy Yandere, a Cloudcuckoolander, a career criminal, or in possession of some other romance-derailing personality trait.
  • A transgender person (mostly discredited now, though is often still an issue if they are extremely insecure, misrepresent the degree to which they have a handle on dysphoria, or have issues with internalized transphobia, homophobia, or misogyny/misandry).
  • A closeted or self-loathing LGBTQ+ person who is dating the opposite gender because they are in denial and/or need a cover, or is dating the same gender while trying to keep it on the down-low.
  • A questioning person dating the same gender just to figure out their sexuality, without being honest about it.
  • A bi/pan person in an opposite-gender marriage having a midlife crisis and seeking to do the same-gender exploration they feel like they missed out on, without at least admitting that that's what they're doing to people who want something more (and quite possibly without admitting that they are married as well).
  • A much older or younger person lying about their age, especially if they are underage or 10+ years older than their listed age.
  • A bi/pansexual individual (especially a woman) being approached for a poly relationship by a couple, who are not forthcoming about the terms or the person's prospective place in the relationship...almost always a "unicorn," or a bi/pan partner in a poly relationship who is expected to be subservient to the couple and mostly function as a glorified concubine without making any demands of her own. In short, something that doesn't exist.
  • A single parent who views dating partners as potential future surrogate parents and tries to push anyone who they get serious with into that role as soon as possible.
  • A controlling older partner deliberately seeking out younger partners whose subservience they can ensure, especially financially.
  • Someone whose profile picture shows them as very attractive, but when you meet them in person, they are anything but. The photo may be from when they were significantly younger and/or thinner,note  professionally taken, or that one flattering selfie out of dozens. In some cases, it's not even them in the photo, but a prettier relative, friend, or even a model gleaned off the internet.
  • In addition to a misleading photo, they may also use Weasel Words to play themselves up. For instance, someone who uses "Curvy" or "More to Love" as a euphemism for "morbidly obese". This isn't to say that people who aren't conventionally attractive don't deserve love, but deception is not the best way to start a relationship.
  • A bot (usually advertising a cam service or an OnlyFans profile).
  • A romance scammer.
  • A doughy and unattractive loser whom you'll discover to be either very, very nice or very, very rich, thus teaching you a valuable Aesop about how not to judge people by their initial appearance (or, less optimistically, it's okay to date someone you're not attracted to as long as you're getting something out of it).

There are many other permutations and possibilities available, but no matter whom your suitor might turn out to be, the odds are very high that your first date will be anything but typical. If you're using an international dating or marriage agency, then expect an even bigger minefield, sometimes with an aesop about how we should stick to our own kind.

If you meet a love interest over the internet by chance rather than through a dating agency, the results will be similar, especially if the producers want to drop the New Media Are Evil anvil. This trope was particularly prevalent in The '90s when the Internet started making its way into everyday life, but few people online had pictures of themselves because digital cameras were expensive and not yet a standard feature on cell phones, and not everyone had access to a scanner for paper photos. Nowadays, someone not having a clear photo of their face is a blatant sign that they're hiding something, as is a collection of nothing but professional photos (which is generally a red flag for a potential catfish - just because they don't show up on Google Images or Yandex reverse searches doesn't mean that they're legit, as they may have been stolen from a private collection). But as shown earlier, even a picture can be misleading or Blatant Lies, and doesn't reveal the person's true intentions or personality.

Older Than They Think, with pre-Internet computer dating and video dating services, as well as newspaper "lonely hearts" sections, 1-900 premium rate dating phone lines, and old brick-and-mortar dating services providing examples for this trope. The assumption delivered by these tropes—that normal people can find dates just fine; only weirdos, creeps, lunatics, and other folks with insurmountable character derangements would need to resort to "artificial" ways of meeting people—also fed neatly with the perception that everyone on the Internet is a weirdo creep lunatic to begin with, allowing an even wider range of absurdity. Today, the stigma surrounding online dating isn't quite as strong as before, especially among LGBT people with more limited options than straights. Current stories invoking this trope are less "Beware the anonymous" and more "If it looks and sounds too good to be true, it probably is" or "You can't see the red flags through rosy lenses." For those who still want a dose of uninformed dating calamity to infuse into their tales, the Blind Date trope is as strong as ever.

For a similar service but with face-to-face interaction, try Speed Dating. For a more general discussion of dating disasters, see Bad Date. Whenever one of these fictional dating services matches a person with someone they already know in Real Life it is invoking the trope It's A Small Net After All. See also Social Media Is Bad. Internet Safety Aesop correlates with this since it's about being careful about who you meet online.


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  • The London Review of Books has a personals column full of intentionally unattractive ads relying on Self-Deprecation and Accentuate the Negative, like "Some chances are once in a lifetime. Not this one, I've been in the last 12 issues." or "Tap-dancing Classics lecturer. Chilling isn't it? (M, 38)". Perhaps people aware of this trope like knowing that they already know the worst about you?
  • Inverted in pretty much every online dating commercial (such as eHarmony or, in which people who don't use the advertised service end up dealing with the aforementioned losers because they're too incompetent to find love on their own.

    Comic Books 
  • In Marvel Adventures: Avengers Hawkeye signs on to a dating service online, but finds filling out all the personal info too much work, so he decides to upload his personal info from the Avengers' database instead. However, he succeeds in uploading everyone's personal info, and the Avengers are swamped with people who claim to have dates with them. The owner is an ex-supervillain (Batroc) who delightfully refuses to take down the info unless they comply since it is good PR for his site to have celebrities using it.
  • In an issue of Weapon X (2017), there are hints that Victor Creed, aka Sabretooth, has a dating profile. The guy used to be a serial killer, cannibal, and possibly rapist, during his evil days. He's been inverted into a good guy, but he's still very feral and still seems to like eating live prey. Old Man Logan mentions being able to smell lies. He asks if Creed has a dating profile. Creed claims he knows nothing about dating profiles and tells Logan to shut up. Logan once again mentions smelling his lies.
  • During the late-60s advent of computer dating services, MAD showed an example of how two customers with everything in common end up driving each other crazy - like dating yourself. He can even tell when she is about to sneeze before she can.
  • A 1970 Batgirl story featured a serial killer who used a computer dating service to find his targets.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: The opening of "The Bride Of Mojo Jojo" (issue #24, DC run) has Mojo, not wanting to be a party of one for Valentine's Day, going to a video dating service. Needless to say, he is not successful.
  • Ultimate Marvel: In Ultimate X-Men Beast breaks up with Storm, fearing that Xavier is messing with her mind so that she loves him, and so he stays at the school. He seeks some new girlfriend on the internet and starts chatting with "Mutantchick", a mutant model wannabe. Actually, it's the Blob, from the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, who loves playing those pranks in his free time. But when Beast shares the secret that Xavier did not kill Magneto, that he's alive and brainwashed... it's finally the time to arrange a date.

    Comic Strips 
  • Happens in early Dilbert before it went to solely office-comedy.
  • In 2009 Mary Worth featured a character named Ted Confey who was dating Dr. Adrian Cory after meeting her online. He proceeds to bilk her out of $50,000 using lines a three-year-old would see through. Just as he's ready to disappear, he's arrested by a Santa Royale detective who later asks Adrian out - and who turns out to be the son of Adrian's father's old college roommate (whom he seems to have cared about a great deal...). The moral of the story? Finding partners in new ways bad, going out with someone approved of by Dad good.
  • One Garfield storyline involved Jon getting a match from a dating service. He ended up getting a woman just out of prison implied to be a murderer. He claims the date was actually enjoyable, even if she needed to be sedated twice.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The movie Must Love Dogs is a romantic comedy about a couple who meet via online dating. True to form, the main heroine arranges a date with a suitor who turns out to be her own father.
  • The movie Napoleon Dynamite provides a gleeful subversion. Dorky, nebbishy Kip hits the jackpot when the girl he's been chatting with online turns out to be Lafawnduh, a gorgeous African-American woman with a fun personality. Amazingly, Lafawnduh thinks she struck gold, too.
  • Exploited by the movie Sneakers. To infiltrate a secure facility, the team finds an employee who's been looking for love online and sends the protagonist's ex-girlfriend to go on a date with him so she can steal his ID card and record a voice sample to access the guy's room. He gets suspicious, takes her to his office, and alerts the villain. She tries to talk her way out of it and seems to have succeeded. As the villain walks away, she humphs that this is the last computer date she's ever going on. At which point he stops, turns round, and says, "A computer matched her with him? I don't think so..." and knows something's up...
  • Pretty much the whole PLOT of You've Got Mail - they turn out to be (mutually hating) business rivals in real life. The situation is exacerbated when he finds out... but she doesn't.
  • You've Got Mail is based on the much older film The Shop Around the Corner, which was released in 1940, in which two anonymous pen pals fall in love with each other without realizing that they hate each other in real life. The Shop Around the Corner was first remade as In the Good Old Summertime with Judy Garland and Van Johnson.
  • Another Older Than They Think example: Multiple variants of the trope in Carry On Loving (1970) - although the "computer" in this case is a very impressive wall of tape reels and blinking lights ... behind which is Sophie Bliss with a card index. The main plot is that she intentionally sets up Bertram Muffett, a rather hapless customer with her "husband" Sidney's bit on the side, Esme Crowfoot.
  • Other Halves is about the creation of a dating app that unleashes the user's id, for good or for ill.
  • The Honeymoon Killers offers an example that is both pre-Internet and terrifying. Raymond Fernandez is a Con Man that writes to women through "Lonely Hearts" clubs, gains their trust, promises marriage, then rips them off. After becoming partners-in-crime with one of his victims, Martha Beck, the two of them graduate to murdering their targets.
    • See also the Foreign Remake, Deep Crimson, a Mexican film that transplants the setting to Mexico and changes the protagonists' names to Nicolas and Coral, but otherwise sticks pretty close to the plot of The Honeymoon Killers.
  • In Julia X, the Serial Killer known as 'The Brand Killer' (because he brands a letter on to each of his victims) uses internet dating sites to meet his victims. However, when he invites Julia on a date, he bites off more than he can chew. At the end of the film, Jessica is using dating sites to meet her victims.
  • David from Keep the Change (2017) has had a string of internet girlfriends who all found him so off-putting in person that they dumped him after one date. A rare example from the viewpoint of the disaster.
  • Love Hard: Exploited. Natalie gets several bad dates while on dating apps, and has turned these into her day job: she writes about them for a Shallow News Site Satire named Soash Media.
  • He's Just Not That into You: Mary uses several online dating sites to try to find love, but all of her dates go unsuccesfully and she fears that she's doomed to be single forever. She is eventually able to get a loving and successful relationship with someone, but only once she actually makes a face-to-face connection with them.

  • A joke about a young woman putting in an ad for a boyfriend, listing all her qualities. She asks her mother whether anyone answered, and she replies "Just one, your father!"

  • In A Dirty Job, one character is prone to online-dating girls from Southeast Asia, who invariably turn out to be sixty years old or actually men or otherwise not what they claimed to be.
  • This is basically the plot of Date Night On Union Station, a sci-fi novel about people living on an AI-managed space station with an absolutely terrible dating service. One of the characters is first set up with a dominatrix who thinks he's there for her services, then with an alien black widow who's looking for a sacrificial husband for religious purposes, and finally with a teenage runaway who'd been sold into indentured servitude.
  • Post-High School Reality Quest: On a dating site, Buffy meets a boy who goes by TheDisasterRoom. He seems nice, even sending her photos of chocolate and roses. When they meet in person, she learns that he's an otherkin who identifies as a ferret and was interested in her because, due to a misunderstanding, he thought she identified as a narwhal. Once they realize the mistake, they break up two minutes into their first date.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of The Red Green Show revolved around Harold trying to get a date, first from a video dating service, then a computer dating service. The video didn't get past editing, but the computer service did get him a date: Winston. Guess they forgot to specify gender when it came to their preferences.
  • The Odd Couple: before the internet — before PCs even — there was computer dating, believe it or not. In an episode that aired circa 1971, Oscar signs up with a computer dating service and embellishes his bio. He winds up matched with Felix's ex-wife.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Brother and sister Hilary and Carlton get matched up.
  • iCarly: Spencer, using
  • The Drew Carey Show: Drew meets a woman online and engages in cybersex with her, only to discover later it's his archnemesis Mimi. Drew comforts Mimi (in real life) after her mysterious beau ditches her and disappears.
  • On Parks and Recreation, Leslie Knope is horrified when a matchmaker site pairs her with her horndog coworker Tom. (Turns out, Tom had set up 26 different profiles to match himself with every possible female personality type.)
  • In the 1992 series Down The Shore, overweight, nerdy Eddie meets a girl online, but chickens out at the last moment and has handsome-but-dumb housemate Aldo pretend to be him for their first in-person meeting. She turns out to be a knockout (played by Kathy Ireland) who was tired of shallow guys hitting on her for her looks and who was looking for an intelligent man attracted to her mind; she quickly sees through the switch and happily meets the real Eddie.
  • A variation happens on Friends to Chandler on at least two occasions (once it was a blind date, the other time they met online), both times with his ex-girlfriend Janice.
  • On Eli Stone a first season divorce case of Taylor's was initiated after both spouses found out they'd been flirting online after meeting in person. Taylor, having personal reasons to look for proof of real love, pointed out that maybe they shouldn't ignore the fact that out of all the people in the world and all the people on the internet they'd managed to find each other and fall in love twice; she refused to do any more work on the case for 72 hours until they had tried to have an honest and civil conversation.
  • Ghosts: Jay first learns about what Trevor looks like when his sister accidentally matches with the late stockbroker.
  • Its Always Sunnyin Philadelphia: Dee and Mac investigate an obtrusive man who shushes their conversation. They try to trace him through his online girlfriend which leads down a dark comedy of deception.
  • How I Met Your Mother used this trope several times with Ted.
    • The first time Ted went to a matchmaking agency with a 100% success rate, it turns out they literally have no women compatible with Ted.
    • The second time the same agency gets back to him with a perfect match, but he passes up the date for another shot at the Will They or Won't They? relationship with Robin.
    • The third time Ted meets a woman online who turns out so far into the crazy end of the Hot-Crazy Scale; it's revealed that she and Ted "met online" while playing World of Warcraft.
    • In Season 8, Ted tries searching for a date online, despite insisting to Barney that he would never get that desperate. He immediately finds the perfect woman, who turns out to be Barney catfishing him. Barney in turn sets him up with three different women he found online, but none of the dates work out because they all remind him of Robin (not to mention one of them is a gun-toting Canadian named Robyn).
  • Used in the Season 3 finale of The Big Bang Theory. And subverted. Howard and Raj sign Sheldon up for one as a joke, but the site gives them a match. Sheldon, thinking the entire thing was stupid when they finally tell him, only goes on the date to prove that dating sites don't work. Ironically, Sheldon's match happens to be perfect—a female version of himself. Apparently, she only used the site because she promised her mother she'd date at least once a year.
    • Sheldon also creates a fake dating profile for Penny in hopes that she'll find a boyfriend and stop pestering him for video gaming advice.
  • In the Three's Company episode "Mate For Each Other," roommates Jack and Janet each secretly try out a "computer dating" service, only to end up matched with each other.
  • Happens on The Office (UK), when David Brent uses one in the second Christmas Special. Michael uses a more traditional method in the US version: bullying his subordinates to offer up names of eligible friends.
  • A victim of the week in Bones was using a cell phone dating service that Hodgins was also using. Angela later started using it and they popped up on each other's phones later.
  • Bosom Buddies had a "video dating" example, where a woman seems to be a perfect match for Henry until they meet face to face, and he discovers that, among other things, she's really into Satanism. (Of course, it's also possible that she wouldn't be crazy about Henry's own secret.)
  • The X-Files has the episode "2Shy", in which a serial killer finds his victims/food via dating sites.
  • In the episode of The Nanny called "The Fifth Wheel", C.C. (who goes by "goodnplenty") gives up men after finding out that "porchepuppy" was actually 15-year-old Brighton. She is surprised by his vocabulary.
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun did this with newspaper personals. While Dick and Mary were on the outs, Dick placed an anonymous personal ad in the paper. Someone answered it and asked to meet him at a restaurant. It turned out to be Mary, of course, and they immediately decided to Never Speak of This Again.
  • The Naked City in another pre-internet example, has an episode in which a woman uses a lonely hearts dating service that didn't do a good job of checking its applicants' backgrounds and sets her up with a philandering married man.
  • Before the Internet, and PCs and computer dating, there were dating services. In George And The Dragon, both George and Gabriella (Dragon), while not enemies, at least opposites, use a dating service to meet someone else. When they go to meet their dates, they find out they've been matched with some nice dates. However, those dates walk out with each other, leaving only George and Gabriella.
  • An episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! ("E.C. The Extra Creepy") had the Bros. discover that Mario's date is a robot.
    Luigi: Wait a minute. Mario, this is not a computer date. You're dating a computer!
  • MADtv (1995)
    • There's the recurring "Lowered Expectations", which involved some of the saddest, weirdest, or downright scariest people looking for love that you'd never want to meet.
    • They also did a parody "Blind Date" show. The male contestant was O.J. Simpson. He was actually a real gentleman while his date kept expecting him to go Ax-Crazy at any second. At least until he thought he saw her with the maitre d'...
  • The whole point of the documentary Catfish and the TV series it was made into is about deceptive online relationships. While the movie doesn't fit this trope, the show does. The show features people who are in long-term online relationships with people they've never met or seen in person. In some cases, they've never even talked on the phone. Usually the person is revealed to be a lot uglier or of a different gender than their profile pictures. Also, often the person being profiled by the show is stupid enough to give gifts to this person they've never met, in some cases even paying for expensive plane tickets or paying bills for this person.
  • NCIS has an episode where McGee found his ideal woman online while DiNozzo eggs him on about how she's not real or really a man. When McGee asks to meet her in real life, she never shows up and makes an excuse about not being able to meet. It turns out that the woman is actually DiNozzo trolling McGee (revealed to Ziva by DiNozzo) and kept on egging him, but begins to feel guilty because McGee refuses to give up on his mystery online perfect woman until at the end of the episode, he begins to act nice to McGee and returns money that he owes him which he never intended to return. It turns out that McGee knew all along and kept up the loyalty to troll DiNozzo back.
  • One early sketch by Ronnie Barker has two men going to a dating service; as various women arrive, they discuss them and wonder if these are their dates. It eventually transpires that thanks to an error by the proprietor, the two men are each other's dates; at which point, they happily go off to the cinema together.
  • On The Mindy Project, Mindy makes eye contact with an attractive guy on the subway (or as Peter put it, she "eye banged" him). The next day she sees a personal ad from the guy, named Andy. She begins e-mailing Andy back and forth. Turns out that it's Danny, who she has had a Will They or Won't They? relationship with, pretending to be the guy she saw on the subway. He briefly ends up in a Two-Person Love Triangle when Mindy decides that she should give up on him and pursue "Andy". This causes him to chicken out on meeting her as he planned. When Mindy confronts "Andy" on the subway, Danny is forced to reveal that it was him sending the e-mails. Things end up working out for them in the end.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Cost of Living" has Lwaxana Troi surprising Counselor Troi with news of her upcoming marriage to... some guy whose profile on some vaguely defined matchmaking or social network is allegedly perfectly compatible with her own. He turns out to be an uptight and prudish bureaucrat who expects Lwaxana to wear a hideous wedding gown. Keep in mind that Lwaxana is something of a Blithe Spirit type devoted to Betazoid tradition, which includes holding weddings in the nude. To no one's surprise, the wedding is canceled at the last moment.
  • Played around with on the Black Mirror episode "Hang the DJ", which essentially skewers modern online dating, especially Tindr.
  • In the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "The Waitress Is Getting Married," Mac and Dennis create a profile for Charlie. Although he uses this as his avatar and gives nonsensical answers for his profile (favorite food: "milksteak," hobby: "magnets," likes: "little green ghouls"), he somehow manages to get a date with a lawyer. At the restaurant, he eats an entire block of cheese before the date, sweats profusely through his shirt, is bleeding all over his face due to hornet stings, attempts to lie that he's a philanthropist but mispronounces it as "full-on rapist," and then grabs his date's breasts when instructed to "make a move." Needless to say, the date doesn't go well.
  • In Power Rangers: Dino Thunder, Ethan signs up for a dating service in "A Star Is Torn". Predictably, the punchline at the end is that it sets him up with the local Alpha Bitch, Cassidy. But they surprisingly give the relationship a genuine try for the next few episodes. Things don't work out, but it helps give Cassidy a push towards Character Development into a Lovable Alpha Bitch.
  • In The Munsters, Grandpa gets lonely and turns to a matchmaking service, which ends up being a front for a black widow serial killer who offs her husbands for insurance and inheritance money. The Munsters prove to be too much for her, though.
  • In Mama's Family, Thelma and Naomi attempt to find a date for Iola through a lonely hearts column, only for most of the replies to be from losers and perverts. The man they do set her up with turns out to be a lech.
  • In the Miami Vice episode "Love At First Sight," a female serial killer is hooking up with men via a video dating service, then killing them and cutting off their genitals. Crockett signs up and, after dating a few red herrings, finally manages to find the right woman. She stabs him in the shoulder before he shoots her.
  • In the Shoestring episode "Looking for Mr Wright," Erica signs up for a video dating service to help Eddie find a man who went missing during a date. She doesn't find the man's video, although she does find a man who insists that any woman he dates be a Pisces with Libra rising ("My last was Scorpio with Virgo rising. Totally unsuitable. Totally.") and a germaphobe who wants his girlfriend to clean under the refrigerator every morning.
  • In the Mann & Machine episode "The Dating Game," Eve signs up for a video dating service because three of its female users have been murdered. Before she finds the culprit, the prime suspect tries to rape her. She easily fights him off but is still shaken by the experience.
  • At least one killer on Criminal Minds used a dating site to select his victims. Specifically, a "discrete" dating site catering to married people who want to cheat on their spouses. Yes, such sites are Truth in Television, and no, if you were wondering, he wasn't a moral enforcer; he was married himself.
  • Vera: In "Darkwater", Vera discovers that the Victim of the Week has been using a local message board to catfish his bullies by thinking they were communicating with a Hot Teacher. This suddenly changes the nature of the case, as Vera realises he was not only the victim but also a perpetrator.
  • Three instances in Frasier:
    • The first has Roz using a dating service, only for Frasier to point out that her date's profile picture is taken from a fashion catalogue. At the same time, Noel (a loser who has a thing for Roz) shows up, leading Roz to think that Noel was trying to deceive her. As she launches into an angry tirade, the guy from the catalogue shows up only to leave immediately when he sees Roz laying into Noel.
    • In another episode, Niles signs up for a dating service called 'Executive Match.' Frasier decries such services as "promising heaven but delivering a buck-toothed librarian who needs help washing her mother," but Niles' date turns out to be stunningly beautiful. While this may seem like a subversion at first it ultimately turns out that Executive Match is an escort service and Niles has been running up a huge bill taking his call-girl out on "romantic" dates.
    • Near the end of the series, Frasier accidentally finds himself at the door of a dating service called 'Charlotte's Web' (mistaking it for his office). He begrudgingly agrees to try the service. His dates include: a creationist, a horny lush, a wigged taxidermist, a pig-tailed woman wearing a loud tunic of plaid quilts, and a teenager with a fake ID. It turns out these are the only women the matchmaker Charlotte has to offer. But in a surprising turn, Frasier finds himself drawn to Charlotte instead.
  • In the Broad City episode "Rat Pack," Abbi uses Tinder to find men to invite to Ilana's party, but she doesn't realize she can swipe left on men she isn't interested in and invites everyone. Guests include several unattractive men with flattering profile pictures, an old man using a black-and-white photo of himself at age 26, a neo-Nazi, and a man whose profile picture is of Denzel Washington.
  • In the Wings episode "Four Dates That Will Live in Infamy", the gang agrees to try their luck with a video dating service, and share their stories later to decide whose was worst. Helen is set up with a busboy who is still on his shift, Lowell takes his date to the airport hangar, Joe's date is a ventriloquist, and Brian's date leaves him to drown in a phone booth.
  • In the Adam-12 episode "Northwest Division," a computer dating service pairs a woman who self-describes as shy and retiring with a man who says he works as a test pilot. They learn the truth about each other when she loudly and angrily pickets the grocery store where he works as a manager.
  • In Alma's Not Normal, Alma gets paired up with a man who has also dated her grandmother through Tinder.
  • How I Met Your Father: Sophie goes on a Tinder date with a man who tells her he just got off another Tinder date — specifically, one that ended in sex. Sid and Jesse are absolutely disgusted by this. Later in the episode, she says she had gone on 87 Tinder dates and all were duds.
  • Janda Kembang: Half of episode 2 is about Seli, Neneng, and Rais trying out a dating app called Minder. Seli keeps getting matched up with someone pretending to be rich while Neneng and Rais get matched up with unattractive people using a fake fancy name, including each other.
  • The Angel episode "Couplet" features a tree demon that (somehow) has an internet connection, which it uses to pretend to be a woman online in order lure men to it, under the pretence of meeting up by the "tree" for a date, so it can drain their life force.

  • Rupert Holmes' "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" is about a pair of bored lovers who secretly arrange to date other people via newspaper ads; to their surprise, they discover that they're cheating on each other with each other. The various violations of conventional morality, not to mention simple logic, implied in this song were heavily deconstructed in a particularly memorable sketch on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Note that this eventually happened in real life. Unlike the song, both spouses sued each other for infidelity.
  • Noah and the Whale's "Second Lover", whence the page quote, is about an online affair.
  • Big Data's "Clean" (ft. Jamie Liddell) is about catfishing, or somewhat embellishing one's online profile on dating sites.
  • Red Vox's "There She Goes" features the protagonist getting catfished by someone through a dating app.
    Got another woman
    Found her on my new phone
    Really should see her photos
    Too bad they weren't her own
  • Nanowar of Steel: "And Then I Noticed She Was a Gargoyle". The title is self-explanatory. It's not even an animated gargoyle, though she's somehow capable of showing up on the date anyway, as well as shedding a tear. Ironically, it's implied her profile picture was quite accurate, but he assumed it wasn't a picture of her for the obvious reason. Well, it ends happily, because he ends up developing a thing for gargoyles.

  • One Christmas pantomime version of Beauty and the Beast has the Beast's servants try creating a profile for him on such a website so that he can find his true love and break the spell — although they keep putting things they like on the profile rather than things the Beast likes. This plan is discarded once Beauty shows up, of course.

    Video Games 
  • In Sam & Max: Freelance Police Episode 104: "Abe Lincoln Must Die!", Sybil pretends to run a computer dating service. When asked about it she claims Sam and Max would make an excellent pairing. Notably, she doesn't move from her position, read anything from her computer or type anything in.
  • Mass Effect 2 has a loading screen message that says "There are no decent galactic dating services." This is backed up by logs of Miranda Lawson's experience with one such extranet service.

  • In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures a filing error in the personal ads department resulted in a kangaroo rat and a kangaroo going out. Things worked out pretty well for them, as they're the parents of a major character (and his seven siblings), but probably not so well for the kiwi and Komodo dragon.
  • Demonseed Redux: Chico becomes Rhoda's boyfriend through a dating app after falling for her mutual interest in pregnancy. He then quickly realizes that this is where their shared traits stop and she's not really his type, not to mention she had ulterior motives.
  • For a time, webcomic Least I Could Do advertised its own dating service with the line "Meet the 40-year-old trucker of your dreams!"
  • In the Insecticomics, Bombshell sets up 'Dr. Shell's Love Connection", mostly for kicks. He hooks up Vector Prime with Hotshot (who Vector Prime hates)...and Vector Prime later goes on about how wonderful the evening was. He's lying, though.
  • In Ctrl+Alt+Del, Lucas tries to use this, but he is repelled by the first photograph he sees (saying that it's hard not to judge a book from the cover when it's made of fur). Then, Zeke decides to play a practical joke on Lucas and sets him on a date with a girl that is slightly fat... but, in the end, she turns out to be a beautiful girl (she was wearing a fat suit).
  • Invoked in an early Sluggy Freelance story when Sam set Torg up with an online date as revenge for a perceived slight.
    Torg: "This is either an escaped convict in a wig, Sammy Hagar in a dress, or the ugliest woman I've ever seen."

    Web Original 
  • Websites exist to chronicle Real Life examples of this sort of thing. Like Not Always Right, they tend to thrive on user submissions. Examples include A Bad Case of the Dates and Dating Fails.
  • There's also the Instagram feed Bye Felipe, which compiles screenshots of men's rude/perverted/scary/ridiculous come-ons or responses to rejection on dating services (think "Well, I never wanted you anyway, you're an ugly bitch").
  • Drew Gooden parodies the concept of catfishing in one Vine, where he received a picture of Ryan Evans and was utterly disappointed to discover his date was actually an attractive woman.

    Western Animation 
  • Atomic Betty used this plot more than once with Sparky's mother Zulia. The first time she uses a dating service, she ends up falling in love with the Big Bad, Maximus. The second time she ends up with the leader of a gang of biker vandals. Sparky tells her that her dates are villains he fights and tries to save her, but she's usually smitten with them and doesn't listen to her son.
  • Beavis And Butthead had an episode revolving around a dating service during the early days of the trend. The duo watch a Geraldo special on the concept, one of the guests being interviewed is shown blacked out and talking about great the service is because all he had to do was call the service and they'd "send him another victim". Ironically, Beavis and Butthead's attempt at using the service turns out great, Butthead's video (where he just talks about being a "sex machine") ends up intriguing a very attractive woman, and Beavis somehow manages to charm the service provider, also rather attractive, who mistakes his aimless rambling for deep thoughts. Unfortunately, by the time they get back home they've forgotten the whole thing and end up blowing each other's chances.
  • The Bojack Horseman episode "BoJack Hates the Troops" has a subplot about Todd Chavez finding a pretty, charming Japanese girl named Ayako online. But it soon turns out that she's really a con-woman working in an office full of them who only wants to drain all the money from his bank account - and she's disappointed that her take was so small for the amount of time she put into him.
  • The Boondocks episode "Attack of the Killer Kung-Fu Wolf Bitch" has Robert Freeman trying to date women through MySpace. The first several women he meets are all grotesquely ugly, having tricked him with fake photos of younger and prettier women; he finally meets the titular character, an attractive, cheerful woman named Luna... who just happens to be a mentally unstable kung-fu master with extreme daddy issues.
  • Happens in the Code Lyoko episode "Déjà Vu", where Odd arranges a date with a girl he met on an online dating site. Said girl turns out to be Sissi of all people.
  • The Fairly OddParents!:
    • The episode "Chindred Spirits" had the Crimson Chin trying this out and he ended up nearly going on a date twice with two of his archenemies. Once he realizes this, he quickly has Timmy take his place on the date and makes a break for it.
    • Another episode, "The Odd Couple", has Timmy intentionally pulling this on Vicky's new boyfriend Ricky to get him to break up with her when Timmy couldn't wish for him to disappear due to the "true love" rule preventing him from doing so. Timmy hooks Ricky up with Dolores-Day, who seems to be a rich and attractive teen beauty queen on the dating site, but in reality, she is Denzel Crocker's mom, an elderly woman who spends her money on prune juice and blood transfusions, much to Ricky's dismay.
  • Family Guy has done several cutaway gags, most notably one about hooking up with someone over Craigslist (a dangerous proposition even in the best-case scenario).
    *a portly, slovenly man rings a doorbell and is met with an equally slovenly woman. Both speak simultaneously* "You don't look anything like the photo. Oh well, let's get this over with".
    Man: Oh boy, I wonder which one of us is the murderer!
    • An early episode had Mort and Muriel Goldman talk about how they met. Turns out Muriel found Mort through one of these as one of the worst possible choices in a video dating service.
    • Another episode had a cutaway about Brian on one of these. Turns out it was a disappointment on both sides; Brian was disappointed that his date was a rather dull-looking middle-aged woman (she claimed the photo was old), and she was disappointed that Brian wasn't a golden retriever (he stammers out that he's a mixed breed).
  • In the Futurama episode "Put Your Head On My Shoulders", Bender runs such a service, which is both discreet and discrete. It's eventually revealed that his "carefully selected dates" are just random people he picked up at the bus station who leave as soon as the driver (also one of the dates) is ready to go.
  • The Hair Bear Bunch episode "Bridal Boo Boo" has the bears secretly sending Peevly's name to a lonely hearts club. A plus-sized battleaxe answers and not only wants to marry Peevly right away but also run the zoo.
  • In the Johnny Bravo episode "Date With An Antelope", Johnny arranges a date with a woman he met online... who turns out to be a talking antelope named Carol. And, this being Johnny, they actually hit it off quite well. Too bad it turned out she was dating Johnny in an effort to make her ex (an ill-tempered talking crab) jealous.
  • Metalocalypse - Toki is tired of the fast and loose life of a rock star and joins a couples matching service to find his soulmate - to his horror she's a frightful being who is clinically intent on mating and making children immediately.
  • The Simpsons had Marge's homely sister Selma try using a video dating service while trying to get pregnant. Figuring that she's not attractive enough to actually make a man stick around, she advertised herself as a "free lunch". Unfortunately, multiplying by zero is still zero.
  • Totally Spies!: The villain-of-the-week starts a phony digital dating service and sets himself up (in a variety of disguises) with every girl at Beverly Hill High so he can dump them and break their hearts like his ex did to him. Yes, it's an incredibly lame plot.
  • In the We Bare Bears episode "Video Date", Panda uses video chat on a dating site to talk with Celine, a charming young lady from Paris, France. However, he's so nervous and insecure that he has his brothers Grizzly and Ice Bear disguise themselves as Panda to try and make him look better. But things soon go very awry when all three of the Bears start competing against each other to win Celine's affection. And it eventually turns out that the deception wasn't one-sided either; Celine isn't even French, she's actually an American from Paramus, New Jersey.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Matchmaker Dot Com


The Real Jobiathan

Alyson met Jobiathan online and they hit it off and she states he reminds her of Beef (at least in his messages). When Alyson finally meets him in person, he admits to leaving off a lot of details about himself, such as looking different than he does online, having multiple children, and being already married with his wife in jail and they're willing to have a polyamory marriage with her.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / DatingServiceDisaster

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