Falling in love with Netflix’s ‘Dating Around’

A scene from 'Dating Around' (2019) is pictured. Courtesy Netflix.

It’s another day and that means Netflix is still at it, trying to take over our every waking moment of free time. This time, though, that does not only apply to the viewer, but the subject.

Recently, Netflix decided to journey into the genre of reality television, covering food and travel, similar to the programs found on the Food Network. Netflix’s new show “Dating Around” (2019–), though, signifies a new venture into a totally different section of reality television: romance.

The premise for the show is simple. Each episode is centered around one person who goes on five first dates with five different strangers, and then ends up going on a second date with one of the five people.

At first, “Dating Around” can seem too awkward to be entertaining, but much like a first date, once it starts to open up it becomes a lot more engaging than expected.

“Dating Around” is clever in its production and style. Set in New York City during the summer, the show tries to capture the look of a modern romantic comedy, looking similar to Netflix’s romantic comedy summer hit “Set it Up” (2018). The restaurants and bars where the dates take place are typically nondescript with a sort of chic modern aesthetic. They all appear as sort of idyllic places that people wish they were cool enough to know about without having to Google “cool places to eat in New York.” There is additionally some B-roll footage to show New York City in the summertime as a beautiful fun place with lively people. A well-crafted, optimistic view of the city enhances the feeling of romance for the viewer.

Not only is the show smart with its setting and design, but also with its episodic structure. Each episode is completely independent of the other, and the premise is simple enough that as a viewer there’s no need to go in episodic order. Feel free to roam around based on episode descriptions and your curiosity. Looking even further in depth, each date in each episode follows the same structure. The location of the dates for a single episode is always the same; the main character of each episode also wears the same outfit for each of their first dates.

These choices act as independent variables, completely unaffected by certain circumstances, allowing the viewer to focus on what Netflix asserts as important: the actual date itself. With all these similarities, the viewer can basically act as though they are the main character of the episode, judging each date, who they like and who they don’t and pick who they think the main character should take on a second date as well as who they would pick to go on a second date if they could.

This is where the show gets most intriguing. By creating a style that makes the viewer focus all their attention on the dates, “Dating Around” does a great job creating intrigue through diversity. The dates are interspersed throughout an episode, cutting back and forth between conversations. Along with this, Netflix chose both a diverse pool of dates and main characters; the show brings in people from many different races, ethnicities, socio-economic classes, sexual orientations and romantic backgrounds. Consequently, as the show stitches together multiple conversations between the main character and his different dates, the viewer sees all these different perspectives and how they influence who the main characters are and how they view the world. Before the audience knows it, the show becomes equally about romance as it is about how unique people are as individuals.

It is interesting to see Netflix on its global conquest take a fairly antithetical approach to the most popular romantic reality TV show, ABC’s “The Bachelor” (2002–). Overall, “Dating Around” is a pretty solid watch. With each episode clocking in at around a 30 minutes, it’s an easy fit into your TV schedule. There are moments of genuine honesty as well as some cringeworthy ones that makes for good entertainment.


Summary

3 stars
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