Baggage is a game show shown on the Game Show Network, hosted by Jerry Springer. It is in the sub-genre of dating game shows. Its name refers to its theme: the contestant must choose between a number of partners who have some form of "baggage", undesirable traits. Through a series of rounds, they eliminate the partners based on revelations they make about themselves. After choosing their final partner, they then reveal their own baggage, and are themselves accepted or refused. The reward of going through this is a free vacation for the couple, if they can deal with each other's baggage.

The mechanics of the game being described (which are actually much simpler to understand while actually watching the show), I want to say something about the show's importance. In the history of American television, there was a brief Golden Age of optimistic, heavily-censored and generally vanilla television. There were no toilets, and married couples didn't sleep in the same bed. Since about 1970, just as the rest of the nation started loosening up, television did as well. But as television loosened up, it did two things: it sensationalized people's sexual and personal lives, while still managing to remain utterly unrealistic. Even as television discovered promiscuity, homosexuality, divorce and any number of other things that most people now don't think twice about it, it managed to not really capture the texture of what diversity meant.

Which is what is surprising and important about "Baggage" --- the show focuses on the "baggage" of the contestants, which often involves past infidelity or promiscuity. It is also hosted by Jerry Springer, perhaps the person most infamous for exploitive television. So what is surprising is that the show is actually fairly respectful of its contestants. Instead of being presented as freak shows whose sexual or personal problems are meant to titillate the viewers, the entire point of the show is that despite their problems, these people are still real people, and are still worthy and likable. And also strangely enough, Jerry Springer starts to seem charming after a while.

Of course, all of that is in the context of this being a television show that tries to compress the issue of dating and companionship into 22 minutes of game show. However, for what it is, it is much better than it could be.