I hate dating. From tripping and headbutting my date to spilling meatball sauce down my face and onto my white top, I’ve come to the conclusion that me and dating are just not compatible. Thankfully, Netflix’s latest reality series Dating Around is here to show all the highs and lows of the dating scene instead. Split across 6 episodes, this Netflix Original doesn’t really reinvent the wheel but what it does do is make for some incredibly compelling and binge-worthy TV that’s sure to get people talking.
For those reading this from the UK, there’s a similar show here on Channel 4 called First Dates. This show depicts a series of singletons sharing dinner with each other before deciding whether to meet again for a second date or not. Unlike Netflix’s effort at this genre, First Dates felt much more simple in its design and set up, making use of static cameras and musical cues to show when things went awry. Here though, Netflix have gone all out to make a stylish, aesthetically pleasing show with differing venues and decor through every episode to keep things feeling fresh.
The premise here is very simple. One chosen single is set up with five blind dates and at the end of each night, has to pick one to take on a second date. The episodes are divided up into different moments in the date, beginning with pre-drinks then dinner and eventually ending with after-hour drinks. This is then concluded with a ride home where the singleton decides whether to take their number or not. The final scene of the episodes then shows who that man or woman has chosen.
What’s particularly admirable here is the sheer diversity offered across the six episodes. While the first ticks all the boxes for perfect date syndrome, if you can get past that, the series really opens up and becomes a whole lot more enjoyable. Recently widowed Leonard has a much more mature and intellectually stimulating group of dates whereas stylistic, sexy Lex is a fashionable Asian homosexual with a whole range of different dates. Between these two polar opposites are several other characters that all have their own quirks and personalities.
Part of the fun here comes from figuring out who these people are and whether first impressions really are telling. Some dates begin really well and slowly devolve into awkward, contrived exchanges. Others have certain ticks and first-date no-nos including checking phones and poor table manners that (if you’re like me) will have you sighing, rolling your eyes and audibly shouting at the TV. I absolutely did not shout “Put your phone away!” during one of the episodes. Figuring out who’s compatible with who and which dates worked and which didn’t really helps get you invested in the show and makes this much more enjoyable than it first seems.
Despite the positives, Dating Around suffers from some seriously haphazard editing. Most episodes only show one introduction before suddenly switching things up between the various different dates at quite a rapid speed. Once you get accustomed to this style things are made easier but it does take a while to adjust. Sometimes you’ll get 10 minutes into an episode and a brand new date will pop up only to realize the first 10 minutes have been all about the other 4 dates. It’s moments like this that do detract a little from the overall enjoyment.
Having said all of that, Dating Around knows what it is and who it’s for. The stylish presentation and simplistic design is backed up by an impressive visual flair and a binge-worthy set of episodes. I truly hope this series gets renewed for a second season as I found myself hungry for more after watching all six episodes. It’s not the best TV out there but it’s head and shoulders above a lot of the other reality TV on offer and for that alone, I’d highly recommend checking out Dating Around.