In the fifth episode of Netflix’s new reality TV series "Dating Around," the episode’s protagonist Sarah, a red-lipped tech recruiter with a sassy, curly bob, sits alone at a bar after being rejected. Sarah sighs, sips her drink and says: “Oh my god, I’m going to go home and masturbate.”
It’s a brutally vulnerable moment marked by its jarring honesty. Sarah’s comment, in all its surprisingly authentic glory, makes clear the show's aim to distinguish itself from its TV peers. "Dating Around" encourages its audience to dismiss all the customs reality romance series taught us, or maybe just me, to love. There are no high-stakes, no high concepts, no elimination ceremonies. Each episode follows the same, familiar arc — drinks, dinner and then a Lyft ride home.
It didn’t take long to realize this familiarity made me very uncomfortable. I’d been trained as a committed reality TV viewer to expect extraordinary drama. To crave epic helicopter rides and whirlwind romances tidily edited to Top 40 hits. Although "Dating Around" opens and closes with its own pop music sequences — its greatest indulgence — the program otherwise embraces its low-key vibes. It’s not proposing marriage; it’s simply asking for a second date.
This shift in perspective completely disoriented me. "Dating Around" isn’t interested in being aspirational. It yearns to be relatable. These people aren’t your typical rom-com leads. These dates don’t follow the routine rhythms of quippy, flirty banter and sensual candlelight dinners.
"Dating Around" wasn’t showing me dates I wanted to go on. "Dating Around" was showing me dates I’ve already been on.