By Serena Lopez
Netflix’s Dating Around returns for a second season, following six new singles looking for their potential match in New Orleans, Louisiana. Once again showcasing organic connections with singles, Dating Around follows hopeful singles going on five blind dates against the backdrop of the lively New Orleans nightlife. Each single gets to decide which one of their fellow singles they have the strongest connection with to take on a second date at the end of the night.
Unlike many of its predecessors like Love Island, Too Hot to Handle, and even Love is Blind, Dating Around is a more organic depiction of what dating looks like today. Each 30-minute episode follows our six singles, Brandon, Demi, Justin, Heather, Deva and Ben, on five different blind dates filmed in the same location starting with the moment they meet for the first time for drinks, then dinner. The audience then gets to see whether or not the date continues long into the night, filmed in a segment of the show titled ‘After Hours’, or if the pair decides to say their goodbyes and part ways in a Lyft home.
This season incorporates many of the elements that contributed to the show’s success from last season, including its diverse cast of singles, that not only include racial and age diversity, but also queer sexual representations. It’s not done in way that seems artificial or to position the theme of the show as part of a fad, but as an organic representation of the people that live and emigrate to the city of New Orleans. An interesting addition to the show which was not included in the last season, is a short introduction of our singles and their interests before we meet them on screen, which is useful considering we spend every episode invested in each singles dating experience.
The show’s binge-worthiness is due to its organic aesthetic. It’s intentional use of using the natural ambience part of each date’s setting is largely what gives it an authentic, stripped-down feel that works in capturing all of the awkward silent moments in conversations, the nerves and butterflies, and seemingly instant connections that we see along each dater’s journeys.
For a reality dating show, it doesn’t over saturate the realistic moments of initial curiosity that comes with first meeting a stranger and the moments of tension that might come about when that stranger doesn’t necessarily share the same values as you.
Last season’s Gurki is a testament to all the ways a date, even filmed for TV, can go very awry. This happened when one of Gurki’s dates rudely tried to shame her for being a divorcee and deciding to get back into the dating world. This season’s Gurki moment is in Deva’s episode, who is a jazz singer from New York. On a date with a guy named True that goes considerably well, the topic of Deva’s bisexuality comes up. True at first presents himself as being accepting of Deva’s preference for dating both men and women, and it’s not until their cab ride home that True exposes his contradictory beliefs –that he’s okay with dating bisexual women as long as they only engage in relationships with other women and not other men. It’s very evident even for the person watching the episode that this guy is not it, and Deva gracefully wishes him well and sends him on his way out in the cab.
One of the most unexpected moments to happen this season is with a single named Justin, who opens up about having just come out of a ten-year relationship he’s been in since he was 21 and is now entering the dating scene in a unique place in his 30’s. His personality is charming and sweet and from what the audience can tell, he gets along with all five of his fellow singles on the blind dates. Who he surprisingly chooses to pursue and take on a second date is a woman named Ann. When the audience is first introduced to Ann, she struggles a bit to open herself up to Justin and decides to go home immediately after their date is over, due to work obligations –the most responsible adult thing you’ll probably witness on a reality TV dating show. She’s one of Justin’s two blind dates that doesn’t develop any further than their dinner exchange and ends after they say their goodbyes. Purely why it’s unexpected is because it eradicates any idea that a physical connection is a necessary component needed to be explored right away on the first date. It’s an honest moment that shows that if there’s mutual interest there will be other opportunities.
Another honest moment belongs to Ben, who is my favourite single to watch. He is an assistant professor in computer science at a local university and is a completely vulnerable person. You want to root for him in a motherly way as you watch him take on the challenge of meeting five new people, who all approach his quirky personality in different ways. It was interesting to see someone like Ben, who came off as not being completely confident in a blind date situation, be as open and nervous as he was in the half hour of his dating experience. The way the show is shot perfectly encapsulates all of his relatable awkwardness and how he hones it in all of the tender moments where he connects with each of his blind dates.
What separates Dating Around from other dating shows, not just on Netflix, is that there’s nothing super flashy or performative about it; it’s dictatingly raw, endearing, and sometimes uncomfortable in interactions with people just looking for love. The singles are confronted with all types of issues that we are confronted with in our everyday lives like age and culture differences, long distance relationships, sexuality and gender expressions, that are all part of what shapes who we are and how we date today. There are no high stakes or prizes to be won at the end of the experience other than air time on the small screen and a potential connection with a likely match.
Edited by Abeer Khan