by Billy Russell, Staff Writer
Ten years ago, Burning Love hit the internet. Back before every single production studio had its own streaming platform, coming up with an alternative to Netflix was a novel idea. Burning Love was produced and distributed by Yahoo! Screen of all places, back when Yahoo! was desperate to prove it was more than a bizarre FAQ resource with troll-ish comments straight from 4Chan.
I think it’s because of this that more people haven’t heard about Burning Love, one of the funniest comedies in the past decade. Whenever I bring the show up, I’m met with, “Burning what? It starred who? What channel was this show on?”
Burning Love was a dead-on parody of reality dating shows in the vein of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and Rock of Love, for good measure.
The first season is about firefighter Mark Orlando (Ken Marino) trying to find love as a cast of women vie for his affection. The second season follows Julie (June Diane Raphael), who was a contestant on season one, given her own season as a lead, and her own opportunity for love.
The third season is a reunion season of sorts, reuniting cast members from seasons one, two, and other fictitious seasons that take place in the larger Burning Love universe we’ve never seen. Instead of competing for love, they are competing for a cash prize of a whopping… $900. While seasons one and two are reminiscent of more traditional reality dating shows, season three is reminiscent of reunion shows like Rock of Love, Flavor of Love, or Charm School.
Part of the charm of Burning Love is its commitment to authenticity. If you’ve seen as much trashy reality TV as I have, you will admire the amount of research that went into crafting its ridiculous scenarios and character archetypes. Burning Love has every tried-and-true cliche of the genre, cranked to its most ridiculous logical conclusion. You have the father whose only identity is just that: Fatherhood. You have unrequited love with one person obsessed and one person who couldn’t possibly give any less of a shit about them, the situation, or the stupid show. And, of course, the sheer amount of vanity and narcissism required for any of these people to be on a show like this, lying to themselves, and the world, that they’re after “love” and not the fame and attention that accompanies being on television.
Much of the cast is comprised from The State and Wet Hot American Summer alumnus like Ken Marino, Michael Ian Black, Joe Lo Truglio, Thomas Lennon and David Wain. The massive cast has big names as part of the main cast, and in bit appearances, including Michael Cera, Adam Scott, Ben Stiller (who also produced), Christine Taylor, and Jennifer Anniston. The cast is absolutely stacked.
The show was created and written by Erica Oyama and Ken Marino, who are married in real life. Much of the humor of Burning Love is mined from the ridiculousness of the situation and the genre as a whole but finds guilty pleasure in total silliness—like an older contestant at the age of 84, whose age is never mentioned and is apparently never even an issue. During the course of the series, she dies of natural causes, and is replaced by her sister, who looks exactly like her. My favorite bit is when, during a reunion, an urn containing her ashes is placed neatly on a chair, and even gets a few close-up “reaction” shots.
I’m going to date myself here, but I first saw Burning Love while it was still airing online through a browser add-on called StumbleUpon. You’d click the “stumble” button and be brought to a random webpage, somewhere online, based on things you told StumbleUpon you were interested in. It brought me to the Yahoo! Screen landing page for Burning Love and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing—and that no one was talking about it. I told everyone I could about it, and everyone I know who’s seen it has adored it. Just this year, I bought it on DVD and did a rewatch of the entire series.