Dating Around review: Netflix series brings us closer to the fallacies and gifts that make us oh-so-human
Dating Around comprises six episodes, each featuring a real person meeting five different people over food and drinks in New York City. The episode ends with the person choosing one of the five for a second date. It is a show about the possibility of love. And that makes it interesting.
Dating Around is a show about modern dating. Dating. Not love. It comprises six episodes each featuring a real person meeting five different people over food and drinks in New York City. The episode ends with the person choosing one of the five for a second date. It is a show about the possibility of love. And that makes it interesting. Unburdened by the gravitational pull of love and put together in a wildly entertaining manner, it permits people to be people, slowly weans away from the scripted/unscripted dilemma, gradually transforming into something the Netflix machinery can be proud of: a binge-worthy drama featuring real people who don’t appear to be made of straw.
Editing is cinema. It makes or break storytelling in a film or TV show. This is particularly relevant in a show that aims to convince the audience about the veracity of real people’s interactions. Minimal interference is a must. No one, not even the most casual of viewers, can completely abandon the idea of the presence of the camera that is shooting these people out on blind dates. This is where the creators of the show earn their stripes.
Instead of a person meeting another across the length of a show, they bring multiple people to the mix. This ensures a heady mix of personalities, some of whom we can actually find ourselves rooting for or turning away in disgust. The editing skips across the different dates near effortlessly, more often than not revealing a person’s personality. There are times when the person uses the same question or joke before everybody, thereby revealing their approach and eliciting wildly different responses from their dates. The locations keep changing. Starting off at a deli or a restaurant, the dates proceed to a pub and finally to the backseat of a cab, which is where the most awkward, and human, interactions take place.
It is in the details that Dating Around stands apart from the trash that reality TV throws up on a regular basis. The people look in different directions, often wishing for it all to end, sometimes mulling over the possibility of a kiss, often even holding back the urge to ask for a number when they are aware the other isn’t interested. This detailing, and the competent editing, effuses this show with a warmth that becomes its hallmark. The creators’ set-up for the show is controlled and well-calibrated, but within that set-up the people are allowed to be themselves.
Then there is the matter of the choice of protagonists. Young and old, straight and gay, there is a fair representation. For this reviewer, the same-sex dates and the one featuring older people, stood out from the lot, possibly owing to age and orientation. I was quite sure I’d abandon this show within the first 10 minutes. Reality TV — if one can indeed call it that — isn’t my drug of choice. But Dating Around initially surprised me, then slowly drew me in, pulling me closer and closer to these strangers, these stories packed in flesh and blood, who’re looking for something in another person, uncertain about what exactly it is, often discovering a spark of that knowledge, and even if they end up as confused as they were at the beginning, their lives turn into a tiny pixel in the portrait of this city, which in essence is a collection of people searching for a connection.
There is the desirable real estate manager whose limited humour works like a charm, the tiny girl with a big personality who walks away abruptly from a date, a woman whose choice we already know, another whose choice baffles us. Apart from a couple of episodes, the show possesses an infectious charm where the initial notion of voyeurism is overwhelmed by the sheer authenticity of the interactions. It is a typical Netflix production. It is designed to keep viewers glued to the show. But the protagonists do not end up as pawns. Their personalities, the unique possibility of their lives, the importance of their stories, and most of all the fact that this is just another tiny decision that may or may not alter the course of their lives, all help to transcend the fundamental gripe one can have with this type of show.
In the end, the viewer is left with one basic question: why do we choose what is clearly not the best for us, or others think wouldn’t work for us? Wondering on and on about that question gives this show its significance because it brings us closer to the unique fallacies and gifts that make us who we are: oh-so-human.
Dating Around is currently streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer here:
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