(Most amusing/egregious is Leonard, an otherwise charming 70-year-old whose overlong bit about dissecting frogs so annoys one dining partner that she gives him a simpler joke to use in the future.) Daters casually offer that they know of a post-dinner place around the corner—a cocktail bar, a dessert truck—and steer the date there again and again.There’s also a whisper of surrealism in the editing: rainstorms cutting in and out at the same venue, or a full moon lighting multiple sidewalk canoodles.The queer folks lock into a camaraderie—or at least a reference palette—that cuts some of the tension marking the straight dates.The season’s “viral moment” comes when Gurki, a 36-year-old Indian American woman, sits down with Justin, a 34-year-old white fashy-wearer who rudely denounces her for having previously married someone she had doubts about.A boilerplate question () might trigger a montage of answers from the different daters.Or the editors might slow down, letting a particular back-and-forth unspool at length. They smack their lips, gab while chewing, and check their phones.This is what Netflix’s refreshing and distressing new show Dating Around nails—both in what it portrays, and in the viewing experience.An elegantly shot entry in a mayhem-filled TV tradition, it might lead watchers of a certain age to yelp “Next! Yet it also extends a headier pop-culture fascination: the suspicion that we live in a simulation.
But rather than contend in a cheesy quiz show or an overproduced melodrama, singles chase dopamine as they would in addictive video games.For the aughts, reality TV made sport of anxiety-producing cultural pressures—courtship is not only battling for the best mate, but also battling to live the great Stepford dream!—via dental hygienists in swimsuits and ex–football players named Colton.Whereas the rest of the show alternates between the tedium and thrill of documentary, the closing is pure cutscene, as if a level has been completed.If Dating Around renders dating a role-playing game, though, it’s one saved by the role players.