If it feels like every possible blind dating situation has been covered by reality TV, Flirty Dancing proves that’s absolutely not true. It’s an interesting idea: Can two people who have never met each other hit it off by just dancing with each other and not saying a word?
FLIRTY DANCING: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: As we see scenes from the first season of Flirty Dancing, host Jenna Dewan’s voice says, “This is a show like you’ve never seen before. A blind date like no other.”
The Gist: In each episode, we’re introduced two two singles, usually one woman and one man, who talk to Dewan about what they’re looking for and how willing they are to do this unusual kind of blind date. Then we see the two dates that Dewan (i.e. a bevy of producers) have picked out for that singleton. We see all three go through rehearsals for four days. The idea is that the subject will do two dances in one day with two different partners they’ve never met before; the partners are not allowed to talk during their “first date.” Then a few days later the dater meet the dance partner they picked to have an actual talking “second” date with. The other person is left to contemplate their moves.
In the first episode, the daters are Octavius, a 38-year-old teddy bear of a music teacher, and Erin, a 21-year-old hairdresser who is self-conscious that she still has the voice of a 13-year-old. Octavius has a fun romp with the outgoing Megan, splashing through the fountains at LA’s Grand Park, while he has a more intimate dance with Marymarie, who has to be convinced by Dewan and the award-winning choreographer she utilizes to get that intimate. Erin, on the other hand, has a playful time with the handsome Brandon in the stands of the Hollywood Bowl, but then hits the stage of the famed venue to have a more classic dance with music director Alec.
Our Take: Flirty Dancing, based on a UK series of the same name, is the type of reality show that is interesting in idea, and is executed in a way that emphasizes the beauty of seeing two people who have never met connect in an unusual but powerful way. We’re just worried that the format doesn’t leave much room for variation, and it will soon get repetitive due to time constraints.
One thing that was refreshing was that the show treats its singleton, and their chosen dance partners, with the utmost respect. From the way the show is shot to the heart-on-her-sleeve hosting style of Dewan, everyone is there to make sure the contestants are comfortable and make a connection. After all, dancing with a stranger on national TV is in many ways even more of a risk than being on a show like Blind Date or The Bachelor. And showing each dance in a cinematic, letterboxed format, with closeups as well as wide shots, gives the scenes more of an emotional heft.
But we couldn’t help but feel, though, that the format will get old after awhile, especially because two daters are crammed into each 42-minute episode. So we see some side interviews, we see some scenes where dancers have difficulty (like the large, handsome lummox Brandon), but there’s no transition between that and the largely smooth dance routines that happen a few days later. We also never see a dress rehearsal with stand-in dancers; we can’t imagine that doesn’t happen on the third day, so the dancers know where to go during the routine. Could focusing on one dater per episode get boring? Maybe. But it would be fun to see episodes where we see more of the process and less of the schmaltz.
Sex and Skin: Nothing. This is one dating show you could watch with your kids.
Parting Shot: While the credits roll we get a quick follow-up on each couple, which always helps give viewers closure on shows like this.
Sleeper Star: We hope that, if the show goes on, the producers bring back the “losing” dance partners to be the one who chooses. We felt bad for Marymarie, for instance, who really put herself out there with Octavius, and ended up not getting chosen.
Most Pilot-y Line: We’re not sure why the producers subjected the “losing” dance partner to the pain of getting hopeful then disappointed when the dater doesn’t show up. It’s the one trope of dating shows that feels unnecessarily cruel.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Flirty Dancing is one of the only dating shows that won’t make a viewer feel guilty that they’re watching it. The format might get old, but it’s a fun show to watch on your DVR while you’re doing things around the house.
— Decider (@decider) December 31, 2019
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, VanityFair.com, Playboy.com, Fast Company.com, RollingStone.com, Billboard and elsewhere.