This past Valentine’s Day, Netflix released a new original reality series called “Dating Around” about dating in New York City. “Dating Around” sets itself apart from popular dating reality shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” because every half-hour episode follows a different single person.
Each episode focuses on the single person in question as they go on five separate blind dates. The format of the blind dates doesn’t change with the person: drinks, dinner and then a possible after-dinner date if the rest of the night goes well. By the end of the episode, the single person must decide if they felt enough of a connection with anyone to warrant a second date, but they can only choose one person out of the five for that second date.
The first episode, featuring a 27-year-old man named Luke, was a letdown for excited viewers. All blind dates begin with awkward small talk and flirty banter, but Luke’s conversations with the women on his blind dates remained extremely surface-level and full of secondhand embarrassment for audience members.
Since the series does not have a plot to follow, Luke’s episode is anti-climactic and falls flat. Other than finding out which woman Luke chooses to go on a second date with, “Dating Around” does not reveal what happens next in the man’s life—but after Luke’s episode, the dates get much more interesting.
The series features single people of a variety of races, ages and sexual orientations. Some of the singles have been married and are either divorced or widowed, while others have been known to date around. Aside from Luke and his blind dates, each of the other singles manage to get beyond initial boring small talk. This is where the series gets interesting.
The next five episodes’ blind dates are far more personal than Luke’s. The single people discuss their views on religion, failed marriages and experiences as members of minority groups. The differences in people’s lives, backgrounds and opinions spark interesting dialogues about living and dating around New York City.
In some episodes, dates devolve into debates about religious beliefs, drugs, sexual preferences and marriage. Occasionally these conversations take dramatic turns and develop into full-fledged arguments. When these disagreements become heated, the singles must make a choice: do they leave, or do they finish the date?
Past a second date, the series doesn’t show if any of the characters find sustainable love. What happens next is left up to the viewer’s imagination—or their Googling. The show’s focus on first dates, however, is relatable to general audiences in its presentation of awkwardness, lulls in conversation and uncertain outcomes.
With a lack of a plot and occasional anticlimactic endings, the show’s value is not in the premise itself but in the natural drama that occurs between two people meeting for the first time. The first episode is an extremely poor representation of the rest of the series, but the last five are definitely worth a watch.