If you think you’ve finally heard the words, "Will you accept this rose?" one too many times, you’re not alone. After working on The Bachelor for roughly a decade, TV producer Alycia Rossiter saw the franchise for what it really is — "a fantasy" — and decided she’d had enough. She spent the last four years dodging the endless list of dating show pitches that have since landed in her inbox — that is, until she was approached about Netflix’s Dating Around. The new unscripted series is quite consciously the opposite of The Bachelor, which is exactly what attracted Rossiter — and what will attract viewers — to the show.
"I said if — and I had a bunch of ifs — if we can show a different segment of the population than the typical dating show segment, if we can make it look beautiful, if we can stand as flies on the wall and just let it happen, I’m very, very, very interested," Rossier, who now serves as an executive producer on the project, tells Bustle. "You don’t have to be a size zero with a symmetrical face to deserve love, or to be interesting to watch as you look for love. So that’s what I wanted to do with Dating Around."
The series follows six different New Yorkers, each of whom go on five blind dates filmed Groundhog Day-style. "It’s ‘I start my day over five different times and the one variable is the person that I have dinner with,’" Rossiter says. "So it’s not what restaurant I take them to. On other dating shows it might be the activity. This was like, eat the same salmon every night, wear your blue t-shirt … and the only difference was the person." At the end of the episode, the lead has the option to go out with one of their dates again.
Each episode is invisibly cut together so that the dates appear to take place concurrently. Rossiter says the leads were given five versions of the same outfit in order to achieve the effect while maintaining the ability to film on separate days — making the flow feel natural and instantaneous, rather than spliced together like other reality shows.
"The audience doesn’t have to think about,’‘What are you wearing? What’s your hairstyle like? What piece of music is under this?’ They just go, ‘Oh! Sarah’s back. Oh! Frida’s back. Oh! It’s Jennifer,’" Rossiter explains.
Further emphasizing its vérité, in-the-moment approach is the show’s lack of on-camera confessionals. "Confessionals, to me, aren’t real," Rossiter continues. "It’s just not how life is digested. I’ve had the enormous pleasure in my life to be able to listen to two people on a first date on a daily basis, and I love it. I love hearing what they choose to say to each other, and I love watching them play with their hair, and I love watching them lick their lips, and I love watching them flare their nostrils … and to me, Dating Around is giving other people that opportunity. Confessionals ruin that for me, because confessionals are the way of hearing what’s going on inside somebody’s brain, and it’s lazy."
Rossiter also made it a point to pick leads who reflected our real world, casting a diverse group ranging in age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and economic status. "For me, diversity isn’t black and white," she says. "Diversity is I’m female, you’re male, you’re not sure whether you’re male or female, I’m 48, you’re 21, I have a lot of money, you don’t have money … My belief in life is that every person deserves love, and I wanted to go to a place where we could show a bunch of different types of people that deserve love looking for love."
Rossiter wants Dating Around to challenge the idea that everyone has a type. She wanted to do away with the surface-level factors that dictate apps like Tinder, and push people to consider the deeper elements that might attract them to someone. "One would think we have more choices then we had before, [but] I’m worried that we’re actually tunneling our choices, and we’re making some mistakes," she says. "[In Dating Around], the preconceived notion that who you’re attracted enough to go on a date [with], or whose job is of interest to you, is gone. Because when I was dating, you went to whatever you went to — a club, a friend’s party, the subway in New York City, and you did see everyone’s face like you do on Tinder, but you also smelled how they smell, and you saw who their friends were. You saw whether they read a book in the subway, or whether they were listening to their Sony walkman. You’ve got all these non-manufactured clues that made you crush or not crush, and that’s gone. And it needs to come back."
Ultimately, Dating Around is exactly what its title suggests: a half-dozen singles meeting and getting to know people, then deciding who (if anyone) they want to see again, without any interference from producers or pressure to choose someone at the end.
"We just said, ‘You’re gonna meet strangers, and you’re gonna go to dinner with them, and there’s no pressure on you to do anything more than attempt to have dinner with them," Rossiter says. "Dating is about meeting another person and learning about yourself, and learning about that other person and seeing how much time you want to spend together in the future. It may be as little as zero minutes and it could be as many as 34 years or 100 years, but that, for me, is the major difference … Going on dates where there’s one human who gets to pick from 25 is a fantasy situation. This is about the truth, which is ‘I’m single, you’re single, let’s talk. Let’s look at each other, and let’s figure out where to go.’"
In Dating Around, there’s no mud wrestling or skydiving or snorkeling. There are no private beaches or fantasy suites, and there are most certainly no roses. But there are real people who share their real emotions with only one intention: to find love. Or, maybe, just to have dinner.
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