Dating Around is Netflix’s new high production, low stakes dating show. One person is subjected to five consecutive dates which are quilted into a single serving.
If you can get through the first episode, in which sentient stock image Luke needs a five second laughing break after one of his dates says “I hope you’re not a serial killer,” you will be rewarded. After this bland hazing, daters like jewellery buyer Gurki, private investigator Leonard and sales associate Mila seem revelatory.
Of course, every date begins with a compulsory establishment of New York singleton credentials: “How long have you lived here?” “When was your last relationship?” “How dead do you feel inside?” But they quickly move on to more profound topics like tattoos, astrology and their cocktails of choice.
In general, the show doesn’t so much fall short of romance as order an Uber and walk straight past it. Yes, the signs are all there: flattering low lighting, sweeping shots of New York and attractive women in midi skirts – but the money poured into the show can’t hide that this is dating in the app age.
In episode three, costume designer Lex epitomises the show’s slick brand of insincerity. A doe-eyed hunk tells him, “I work in real-estate development” and Lex enthusiastically replies, “Oh shit, that’s fun.” However, his mask satisfyingly slips when song-writer-come-dog-walker Hanna reads his lyrics aloud. “I’m ready to blow my load… I see the Versace jeans across my wet dreams” he announces to blank-faced Lex, before asking earnestly, ‘“What do you think?” Mercifully, Lex can only utter a loaded “umm” before the show cuts away.
Say what you like about Netflix, it knows what its audiences want (thank you, cookies). The show is markedly less straight and white than most. However, they also know us for the hateful, binge-watching trolls we are. In this kind of fast-fix entertainment, there needs to be more heartbreak than hope. In this aspect, they are faithful to real life: women bear the brunt of the dating fall out. Gurki is screamed at by an estate agent who takes her divorce personally, Sarah draws a date to an end after a shower of innuendo from a man who introduces himself as “Mister John” and countless others are clumsily rejected in taxis home.
Despite its stylised intimacy, Dating Around cannot deny that this is casual dating for the casual viewer.