Netflix has two of the nine best picture nominees at Sunday’s Oscars.
Last fall, the streaming service had two dramas and a comedy up for the Emmys’ top prizes.
Now that it’s mastered the art of prestige entertainment, Netflix is setting out to conquer its final frontier: reality TV.
Already this year, the company has made noise with “The Circle,” its competition series that’s equal parts “Big Brother” and “Catfish” with just a touch of “Black Mirror.” And its docuseries “Cheer,” which salutes the tiny women of Navarro College and the men who launch them into the air and sometimes catch them, is a full-blown cultural phenomenon.
Up next is “Love Is Blind,” the dating series hosted by Vanessa Lachey and husband Nick Lachey that debuts Wednesday, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Billed as a social experiment, as the goofiest reality shows always are, “Love Is Blind” signs up single men and women desperate for a spouse, but it only lets them interact with each other inside separate “dating pods” — tiny rooms where they sit by themselves and talk to each other through the walls like inmates in solitary.
Any two like-minded singles can become a couple only after getting engaged and setting a wedding date, at which point they can lay eyes on each other for the first time.
Getting married at first sight? That’s crazy! Who would have thought of such a thing? I mean, aside from the creators of “Married at First Sight,” which just kicked off its 10th season on Lifetime.
“Love Is Blind” also shares the same basic concept — minus the nuptials and, presumably, the accidental groping — as “Dating in the Dark,” an ABC series from 2009 in which contestants only met each other in pitch-black rooms.
While you’re waiting for that to debut, here’s a look at some other dating reality shows from around the world that already are available on Netflix, any one of which could help get you in the mood for Valentine’s Day:
“Dating Around” (America)
Netflix’s first original dating show is among the most inclusive series you’ll encounter. In each of the first season’s episodes, someone looking for romance goes on five blind dates, chosen from a mix of ages and ethnicities, then picks his or her favorite for a second date. As for the contestants, there’s the obligatory young, straight, white dude and young, straight, white lady. Other episodes, though, focus on a gay man, an African American lesbian, a woman of Indian descent who was born in France and an older widower.
“Ainori Love Wagon” (Japan)
Seven strangers are crammed, “Road Rules”-style, into a small, pink minivan for a three-week journey through multiple countries. The ultimate destination, though, is love. As dating shows go, this one is unusually sweet. While “The Bachelor” has made a tradition out of contestants getting it on in the Fantasy Suite, one of the guys on the current season, the show’s third, has a request for a young lady that’s as demure as it is oddly specific: “Can I hold your hand for three minutes?”
“What the Love! With Karan Johar” (India)
Johar, the playful director known for his Bollywood romances, assembles a motley assortment of players, virgins and everything in between — all of whom have love lives he describes as “such a glorious mess” — before winnowing them down to the three men and three women he thinks he can best help overcome their insecurities. “Each singleton will be invited to my den for a love makeover,” Johar announces.
“Back with the Ex” (Australia)
Four former couples are reunited for the first time in years to decide, over the course of seven episodes, if they want to get back together for good. The pool of eligible singles is rather limited: It’s your ex or nothing. On the other hand, as a contestant, you don’t have to worry about being upstaged by someone younger and hotter, and you could skip that stressful “pretending to be better than you actually are” stage.
“My Hotter Half” (England)
Couples with too much time on their hands compete to see which of them is more appealing to the opposite sex. Each of them takes a series of selfies that are shown to people on the streets of London. The loser, aka whoever has the lowest percentage of strangers who want to date them, gets a makeover. The winner gets … well, that’s never made clear. But it’s probably a feeling of smug superiority that instills a sense of creeping doubt in their partner, along with the bill for a lifetime’s worth of couple’s counseling.
Eighteen singles, each of whom is burdened by a “dark secret” that’s kept them from finding true love, gather at an Okinawa water park to get to know one another and, at random intervals, reveal that particular embarrassment. One has erectile dysfunction. Another is addicted to plastic surgery. One is a divorcee whose wife cheated on him. All of these revelations are met with differing amounts of laughter. When one young lady bravely admits that an abusive relationship left her so damaged, she’s had 300 sexual partners, host Atsushi Tamura christens her with the nickname “300 Slut.” The series is the sort of pure evil that must be seen to be believed. The only way “REA(L)OVE” could be worse is if it were taking place during “The Purge.” Tamura’s behavior is abhorrent but also sadly understandable. He’s clearly cracking under the pressures of his dual roles as host and Satan’s manservant.