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Tuesday, Aug 9, 2022

‘Dating Around’ Review: The Realm of Inclusive Reality TV

Graphic designed by Fuller Tice.
Graphic designed by Fuller Tice.

Netflix released a new original series called “Dating Around” on Valentine’s Day this year. Personally, I’ve never been into dating shows. I hate the entire premise of “The Bachelor.” Initially, the Netflix original struck me as just as boring and melodramatic as the rest of the popular “reality” dating shows, since my first encounter with it was a clip on Twitter that showcased the most horrendous scene of the entire show. However, the clip accomplished what it was intended for; I was immediately interested in the context and content of the show. So I ignored my homework and binge-watched “Dating Around” instead (sorry professors).

After the first episode, I was not convinced that this show was worth my time. Honestly, I was a little bored. The first episode follows the dater, an attractive young white man (surprise surprise), through about five “pure” blind dates. Each date is unique in a very significant way, which makes it feel like Netflix tried too hard to prove they could be inclusive and diverse instead of considering the dater’s preferences. While I appreciate the intent, I don’t believe this is necessary because not only is it very blatant, but the show also does a good job of including diversity among the daters themselves.

Outside of the first episode, each episode focuses on a dater from a different minority or marginalized group, varying in ethnicities, sexualities, ages and genders. Each date follows a cookie-cutter formula: drinks, dinner, then after-dinner drinks. Still, each date is distinguishably unique, and some were even cut short.

Halfway through the second episode, I encountered the horrendous scene that had captured my attention on Twitter. It was even more disgusting and ignorant with context, and it was a far more real taste of dating drama than any in “The Bachelor.” At this point, Netflix had hooked me. Yes, I love drama too— I’m human— I just prefer realistic drama.

Realistic drama is just what this dating show provides. Even though most of it is staged, the tension, the connections and the awkwardness of first dates is conveyed so well, it feels totally authentic and organic. This show gives incredible insight into the world of dating in your late 20s and early 30s. Since there is no indication of fairytale endings or magical love stories, the whole show feels casual and low-stakes in a relatable way. Though the dater only gets to choose one of their dates to pursue a second date with, there is no competitive feel or “final rose.” The show seems to convey that these dates are not competing against each other, focusing instead on compatibility and chemistry between real people.

The real-feel of this show is why I would recommend it to anyone looking for a breath of fresh air from the melodrama and theatrics of most reality dating shows. It’s the perfect show to watch when your only goal is to feel content and happy afterward. It leaves no indication of hard feelings between the dates, and the dater always seems to end up happy.

This show is all about casual dating. There’s no expectation of long-term relationships or love; the only expectation is a second date. That’s why I think it’s perfect for a college student with some free time-- many college students are not looking for major commitment or fairytale endings. We have other things to focus on, and so do the people in the show.

I also loved this show because of its brevity. Since we all have classes and jobs to focus on, many of us don’t have time to watch hour-long episodes and 24-episode seasons. “Dating Around” is the perfect show for a quick lunch break, as it is a six-episode season with approximately 30-minute long episodes. With that being said, its brevity also means that if you fall in love with the show and binge it in three hours, you may be waiting a while for new episodes.

Overall, “Dating Around” was absolutely worth the three hours of my life it occupied. It was relatable, it had tension and drama and it was fun. Does it have issues? Of course. I don’t know that there are any reality shows that don’t. Netflix seemed to care more about showcasing their supposed diversity through the dates instead of catering to the dater's personality and preferences, which slightly blurred the focus on compatibility. The show doesn’t follow any of the couples further than their second meeting, which could leave the audience wishing for more. In future seasons, maybe Netflix will decide to do a follow-up episode with previous matches, but for now, we will have to be content with knowing that this show is completely no strings attached.


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