What I thought about: Dating Around (Season 2)

With its carefully choreographed camera angles and unique story-telling structure, this American take on First Dates is refreshing, cute, and genuinely brought a smile to my face more often than not.

The smooth panning shots and excellent colour grading make this show an especially cosy watch.

What’s it about?
Five first dates, one follow-up. Each episode of Dating Around follows one central person and the five dates they go on. Each date is shown simultaneously and smoothly using a unique structure. The central person might be shown asking a question to Date Number Two, and in the next shot we see Date Number Three answering it.

Two important differences to First Dates. Firstly, Dating Around puts food and drink on the back burner and lets the daters cover some pretty deep conversational ground. Secondly, the final few moments of each episode don’t involve two people awkwardly announcing whether they’d see each other again (neither of them wanting to go first for fear of being rejected). Instead, the closing moments of each episode sees the central person casually hanging around, awaiting the arrival of their chosen second date. The producers tease us with shots of random passers-by, making us wait with baited breath to see if they chose the person we were rooting for from the earlier dates.

What do I like about it?
Everything about the show – from the colour grading, cinematic camera angles, narrative devices, and the final ‘second date’ reveal, is more cosy and inviting than the harsh CCTV-style we see in First Dates. Don’t get me wrong, I like First Dates too, but Dating Around certainly feels more suited to its American participants, who will excitedly talk about where they came from before they settled in New Orleans, where this season is filmed. I’m not sure us Brits could be that excited talking about our hometown of Skegness or Guildford (no offence to those places).

It’s for this reason that I found myself having a smile on my face more often than not, as I enjoyed seeing the diverse range of dates warming up to each other and forming what, occasionally, looked like some pretty deep connections. Speaking of diversity, there’s plenty of it here – especially in the age and sexuality department. That said, Season 1 had a dedicated episode for seniors, which was missing this time around.

What do I not like about it?
Very little. Episodes are 30 minutes and therefore very bingeable. The show is warm and inviting – perfect for watching with friends, family, or significant others. I just wished we got to see a little more into the post-show lives of the participants. Besides the second-date reveal, we are completely left in the dark.

Worth a watch?
Yes, especially if you like this kind of show. You don’t need to have seen Season 1, but you might as well!

By the way…

  • One of this season’s participants has hinted at a possible ‘where are they now’ episode, saying that Netflix asked him to ‘keep coy’ about his love life for now.
  • One of the dates in Episode 3 is polyamorous and only dates bisexual women. See if you can guess which one it is.

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What I thought about: Too Hot to Handle

This ain’t no Love Island. Problematically short, lacking in depth and character, and full of fake tension, this Netflix dating/self-fulfilment hybrid is a cute but ultimately disappointing competitor to the UK’s favourite reality show.

The guy on the right is a MASSIVE twat.

What’s it about?
Five guys and five girls (all of them ridiculously horny) land at a beach side resort, ostensibly with the intention of pairing up and having flings with each other, with some kind of ‘winner’ taking home a $100,000 cash prize. But there’s a twist – throughout the resort, their activities are being monitored by LANA, a talking lava lamp. LANA wants the participants to form deeper emotional connections rather than commence a shag-fest, so it will deduct money from the prize fund if anyone has any kind of sexual contact (in my Jeremy Kyle voice, that’s anything from a kiss to intercourse).

What do I like about it?
There are two tenements to the show that actually are interesting.

Firstly, the participants are made up of people from multiple places – The US, UK, Canada, and Australia. There’s a particularly satisfying cultural difference between UK and US dialects that can be fun at times – such as Bryce trying to get to grips with the concept of a ‘geezer’, or basically anything else Chloe says.

Secondly, the show features four sort of personal development classes that the participants are forced to do – two mixed, one for guys and one for girls. You might dismiss the courses as hippy dippy nonsense, but the participants genuinely seem to have gotten something out of them each time, especially the single-sex ones (perhaps they feel more able to show vulnerability in the absence of the opposite sex?)

What do I not like about it?
Unfortunately, save for the interesting stuff above, everything else about the show is lacking any depth whatsoever. Many of the participants are criminally under-utilised. The show tries to do the whole ‘bombshell extra participants’ staple of Love Island but they just don’t manage to pull it off in the same way.

The AI gimmick was super lame. It’s obviously a real human voice, it doesn’t look particularly good, and it clashes entirely with the rest of the show (we only see a phone on screen once, and all the classes emphasise being driven by nature). It’s also way less suspenseful than even the lame text-fest that takes place around the fire pit in Love Island.

Worth a watch?
Not really, unless you want to see a little bit of reality drama (some of the characters are truly bitchy) and you’re desperate for something to tide you over until whenever Love Island manages to come back.

By the way…

  • I’m convinced one of the relationships is put on for show in order to boost their respective Instagram influencer cred.
  • It’s comprised of 8x 30-45 minute long episodes, so I feel it’s far too short to get to know any of the participants properly.

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What I thought about: Love is Blind

Chances are, at least one person you know is talking about this one. Some people think it’s an absurd, potentially dangerous, premise. Others think it’s just another trashy American reality show. I think it’s both of the above – and more.

This is definitely CGI

What’s it about?
Is love truly blind? Are our emotional connections stronger than any physical ones? Love is Blind tries to answer these questions. 12 guys, 12 girls, living in what looks like an abandoned warehouse that has been decked out with McMansion furniture. Their sole objective is to go on a rotating series of dates with each other in these psychopathic pods where they can’t see each other – but can somehow hear each other clearly.

After having enough DMCs with each other, the men propose to the girl they developed the best emotional connection to, and the newly engaged couples are whisked away to a sort of pre-wedding honeymoon. Other stuff happens in the run up to the weddings, but I don’t want to spoil it so I’ll stop there.

What do I like about it?
The premise sucks you in. The emotional connection of the participants – and their eventual coming together – keeps you going. And then, about mid way, the drama explodes. But, wait, it turns out that wasn’t even the main explosion. The final episode is even more dramatic, as we find out if the couples say ‘I do’ and end up legitimately married.

I feel like the drama in this show is of a higher caliber than something like Real Housewives or The Bachelor. The build up is also more pleasing than the outrageous Married at First Sight.

Also, at least one of the couples are genuinely adorable.

What do I not like about it
The show pretends to be some kind of scientific experiment. Uh, no. For starters, everyone on the show is fairly evenly attractive. This isn’t MTV’s Catfished, and I get the feeling the participants were told that so that they would engage better with the process. And while there is some genuine human connection grown out of the show, the producers obviously have a few tricks to generate some drama.

Some parts of this show are just a bit weird. The participants hang out in a giant, windowless living room, and it’s never explained whether they stay there for the duration of the experiment or go home at the end of the day. The hosts, some married American presenting couple I’ve never heard of, appear about 3 times throughout the whole show. They may as well not have been there.

Worth a watch?
It’s not a must-watch. But if you like the sound of the premise and enjoy watching American reality TV with a healthy dose of drama, you should consider saying ‘I do’ to Love is Blind.

By the way…

  • There’s a reunion episode coming out in March on YouTube. Considering the show was filmed in 2018, this should be interesting.
  • The show was produced by the same people that make The Circle (the US version, at least). That’s probably where the weird decor and obsession with ‘pods’ comes from.

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