When it comes to reality television, the programs we see are usually highly structured and dramatized for our viewing pleasure. In these shows, viewers have become accustomed to the dramatic elimination ceremony facilitated by a host and the behind the scenes gossip courtesy of talking head interviews. These elements have become a staple of the genre, the result being a program that offers entertainment that is far from reality. Netflix diverges from the norm offering a fresh take on the romance-related reality television show “Dating Around.”
The premise of the show is simple. Viewers follow along as someone goes on five blind dates; the ultimate decision at the end of the show being who they will choose to go on a second date with. Each episode is divided into three components of the evening: drinks, dinner and after-hours.
“Dating Around” takes common first date interaction and elevates it by utilizing snappy editing techniques. Each episode explores similar topics of conversation among all of the blind dates allowing for seamless transitions between partners, an editing technique that certainly can be polarizing. This is an admirable trait of the show as the common factors allow for a non-bias evaluation of the only changing factor, their date.
The first episode features Luke, a straight, white man going on his five blind dates with various women in New York City. While this is the first appearance of the show, it should not deter viewers as it is not an accurate representation of the episodes that follow. The premiere season displays a more diverse representation of New York City with the show focusing on singles who are people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. The show even features an elderly widower who is searching for love after the loss of his longtime partner.
The show is fresh as it captures the humanity of dating, something that the popular reality programs have failed to do. “Dating Around” provides viewers with an experience as if they were dropped directly into the date of these strangers. While there are no high stakes moments implemented in the show, there is certainly the tension and drama that comes with the average blind date. Although there is no “elimination” factor in the program, any given date can have its pitfalls and conclude at any point in the evening. Viewers experience all the awkward and cringe-worthy moments and feel all the associated secondhand embarrassment as the date unfolds.
The format differs greatly from the standard romance-reality program as viewers learn about each individual through the casual conversation throughout the evening. When first introduced to the person of interest of each episode, there is voiceover of their friends introducing them to the audience. This is where we find the only commonality among other reality shows as the remainder of the episode does not provide us with any straight-forward exposition. “Dating Around” is interesting in the sense that viewers never get a glimpse into the thoughts of the featured singles. As the events unfold throughout the evening, only the actions and mannerisms of those involved can indicate how they feel about one another.
One aspect where the show lacks is the fact that there is no real hook at the end of each episode to keep viewers engaged. This is where it suffers by differentiating itself from other reality programs as the standard typically feature an episode to episode connection. “Dating Around” takes time to grow on you; it will make you cringe at the interactions at first. But soon, you will find yourself rooting for your favorite date to get picked. Despite the lack of a competitive draw, viewers will find themselves binge-watching “Dating Around” in standard Netflix fashion whether it is from pure enjoyment or the inability to exit within five seconds.