Ever been on a date and thought: I’d have more fun talking to a wall?
Netflix’s new matchmaking reality show “Love Is Blind” brings that scenario to life — but with different intentions.
The series begins with 15 single men and 15 single women splitting off into pairs and getting to know each other, one on one, sight unseen: Each is in a “pod” separated by a wall. Think Catholic confessional meets Tinder.
Roughly 10 days later, after much gabbing, those who share a strong connection get engaged and meet for the first time before jetting off for a honeymoon-esque stay in Mexico. If the connection is still thriving — this being reality TV, it won’t be drama-free — the couples then venture back into the real world, where they live together for four weeks, meeting family, friends and pets. If, after all of that, the spark remains, the couples exchange vows and join the ranks of other made-for-television love stories.
The 10-episode series is being released as a three-week event. The first five episodes were released last week; the next four episodes are now available to stream. The finale will air on Feb. 27.
The Times talked with creator and executive producer Chris Coelen about the show that has viewers confused, curious and totally committed.
Where did the idea for the pods come from?
Coelen is no stranger to the relationships-made-on-TV world. As the head of L.A.-based Kinetic Content, he’s behind Lifetime’s “Married at First Sight,” which features total strangers tying the knot. The idea for “Love Is Blind,” Coelen says, was to explore the universal desire to be loved for who one is on the inside. The “experiment” was to see how to make an emotional connection the starting point of a relationship in today’s age of physically-focused dating apps and curated social media personas — and whether that can overcome all else.
“There have been many scientific studies that talk about the key to long-term relationship success being emotional connection and not physical attraction,” Coelen said. “If you could start relationships with pure love, how would we set about doing that? And if you could start with pure love, is that love enough to survive in what is a really polarized world, a really judgmental world and a really detached world?
“When you think about all of the devices that are supposed to connect us, they have ended up disengaging us from other people. People who are looking for love with devices and dating apps oftentimes feel like they’re disposable, that people are judging them based on a first impression. Like, it’s their surface-level experience. And so thinking about, ‘How do we do the opposite? How do we make it a deep experience? How do we start with love?’ And that’s where the idea of talking, just talking without any distractions, came from, and in an environment that’s very intimate and comfortable, which are the pods.”
If the show aims to tackle whether love is blind, why not cast a truly diverse group of people?
Some viewers have wondered why the series doesn’t feature a wider range of sizes, ethnicities and types of singles.
“The show is not a gotcha show — we didn’t plan the show thinking, ‘How can we throw people curve balls?’” Coelen says. “The goal in casting was, let’s find people, regardless of what they look like. We didn’t cast people because of how they looked; we cast people who genuinely seemed interested in trying to find love in a different way and who liked this approach. And some of those people are more, I guess, ‘conventionally attractive,’ whatever that means. And some people were less conventionally attractive, and ultimately we were only able to follow so many stories. ... We didn’t pick people for how they looked, we picked people for the authenticity of what they expressed as a desire, and then within the group of people who got engaged we ended up sort of, at random, picking the stories that we ended up wanting to follow. Because we couldn’t follow all of the stories.”
Why such a short timeline from pod to wedding bells?
We’ve all heard love stories of couples who’ve gotten married within a day, a week or a few weeks of meeting — and had lasting marriages — and some of us swoon over that version of intense love. And then there are those who might think heading down the aisle after a little over a month of “dating” feels more like a horror story than a love story.
But it works with this premise, Coelen says.
“We felt like, if things went well, that these people would feel as if they knew each other better than they knew any person in their life ever. They didn’t have to get engaged. They wouldn’t have chosen to get engaged unless they felt like it was completely up to them ... Everybody knew going in this is what it was going to be. We felt like the experiment was, if you start with that depth of feeling, that a month felt like the right period of time to allow the couples to try to turn their emotional connection into a physical one, and to navigate some of the obstacles that the real world might throw at them. Whether that be family or friends or circumstance or whatever. I think that if you’ve seen the whole series, I think it’s evident in the finale that actually, that time frame really works.”
What’s the deal with Rory?
Rory. Rory. Rory. He’s the contestant that has some viewers wondering if he’s actually really there to offer emotional support to the other lovelorn guys. But if you thought love wasn’t blind enough for him, you’re wrong: Rory Newbrough got engaged! (And then, well, he got unengaged.)
“He got engaged to a woman named Danielle [Drouin], from the show,” Coelen says. “They were both in the facility, and they got engaged. Danielle was someone that there were lots of people who were interested in her, and there was a guy named Matt [Thomas] who is really only seen early on in the show — he’s actually the first guy that you see in the show that’s asked about why he’s participating. Both of those guys were interested in her. She ended up deciding that she wanted to spend her life with Rory, and they got engaged. I know they took a trip or two together and they tried to build a life together. They ended up breaking up and then she started dating Matt.”
What are the hurdles of love outside the bubble?
The newly released batch of episodes find the couples back to real life, and it leads to some discussions on relationship hurdles of the past and present, like finances and social media usage.
“You look at the things that tear you apart and the things that present obstacles to people,” Coelen says. “Your financial situation, or how you handle your finances, are certainly one of those things. It’s one thing to be in love and to feel like you are bonded to someone. It’s another thing to then put that love into the real world, into practice. I thought that it was fascinating to look at how Gigi and Damien sort of handled their time on social media and what that was, an impediment or not. Obviously the idea of age differences or racial differences also come into play. ... It’s about judgment from the world or judgment that you place upon yourself.”
Did those who got married actually get a marriage license?
“Yes, it’s legal,” Coelen says.
What’s up with the hosts’ limited screen time?
Husband-and-wife duo Nick and Vanessa Lachey have been hitting the publicity circuit for “Love Is Blind” as hosts of the series. But viewers of the show will notice the pair don’t have much screen time as the series continues — a topic that Vulture explored in detail, noting the couple appear for 13 minutes total throughout the run of the series.
“I thought they did a great job and I thought they were terrific. They couldn’t have been better to work with,” Coelen says. “The truth is, we had so much story to tell. At the end of the day, it’s not really Nick and Vanessa’s story that anyone cares about. It’s really about the stories of these participants.”
‘Love Is Blind’
When: Any time
Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17)