Learning to love the Netflix show ‘Love is Blind’

Amber Pike and Matt Barnett in "Love Is Blind"

Let’s face it, falling in love is always a roll of the dice.

It could happen unexpectedly.

You can meet someone, go on a few dates, form a connection and slowly start developing a relationship that might turn into love.

Or, you can sign up for “Love is Blind,” a Netflix dating show that aims to answer the age-old question: Is love really blind?

I might be skeptical that someone can find love on a reality show, but I’m not skeptical about the entertainment that a good reality show can provide, no matter the premise. So while it’s easy to roll your eyes at these desperate singles and their belief that marriage is the ultimate prize, it’s also easy to suspend your disbelief and get invested in the personalities who make the show such a guilty pleasure.

The concept is simple, if bizarre: 30 men and women participate in a 10-day “speed-date” process, where they “meet” and spend time together, but the twist is, they never see each other. The participants are in connected pods that enable them to speak to each other through filtered screens. The goal is to find a life partner within those 10 days and, if a proposal occurs, they can then see each other for the first time.

After the proposal and first meeting, we follow the engaged couples on a trip to Mexico, and then back to Atlanta, where the couples move into the same apartment complex leading up to their weddings. It’s a recipe for reality gold.

I first attempted to binge the series when it debuted in February and it felt like you couldn’t go on Twitter without someone’s commentary or glowing praise. But I couldn’t get into it.

The participants and their corny, wide-eyed sincerity put me off, not to mention the very premise of the show. The idea that one can fall in love with a person they’ve never seen in a matter of days made me roll my eyes. And the way the contestants treated marriage, like it’s something that would complete them or give them purpose, depressed me.

But that was back before the world changed.

Now, living in lockdown, the idea of meeting a significant other in a pod is appealing, strictly for the social distancing aspect. It’s a new world and all old rules are out the window, and losing myself in a silly reality show is more appealing than ever.

So, I decided to try again, with a new attitude: Yes, this show is ridiculous and yes, these people are pathetic, but I can overlook that for the sake of mindless entertainment because right now, mindless entertainment is all I have.

I dove back in. Thirty-six minutes into the first episode, one couple is already in love. By episode two, several participants talk about the strong connections they’re forming and about marriage. This is by episode two!

I had to keep reminding myself to suspend my disbelief. And once I managed to do that (I think it was somewhere around episode four), the show started growing on me.

Of course, there are more eye roll moments, life after a few days of talking to Jessica through a screen, Mark confesses, “It’s a breath of fresh air to be accepted by Jessica for just me. Not what I look like, not how I move or my body or whatever. She’s accepting me for me. Now I know what a true relationship looks like.”

Speaking of Jessica, by episode two, it’s clear that Jessica is a true reality star. She’s starry-eyed and desperate. She’s unhinged in the best way. She overdrinks and overshares. She cries a lot. She’s perfect.

While in the pods, Jessica forms a connection with two participants: Mark, who is 10 years younger than her, and Barnett, someone more age-appropriate. At first, she blows off Mark for Barnett, but when Barnett tells her that he’s falling for another participant (the feisty Amber), Jessica quickly goes running back to Mark, tearfully apologizing for ever doubting their connection. Mark forgives her and proposes (again, sight unseen), which Jessica fervently accepts.

But for the rest of the show, it’s clear that Jessica isn’t over Barnett. When she finally sees Barnett in person, she explains that he’s much more attractive and much more her type than her hapless fiancé, Mark, whom she struggles to be intimate with. We watch Jessica silently seethe as Barnett falls deeper in love with Amber, all the while proclaiming that she’s very much in love with Mark. We watch her awkwardly criticize Barnett and Amber’s relationship, her jealousy palpable.

And, in a viral moment, we also watch her let her dog drink red wine from her glass during an emotional conversation with Mark.

Can you see why this mindless entertainment thing is appealing?

The cast is filled with other standouts, but the Jessica-Mark-Barnett-Amber drama is the most entertaining and what kept me hooked. Ultimately, it’s the personalities that make “Love is Blind” so binge-worthy, not its premise.

And in the end, the show is a trashy, certified hit and the drama will continue. Last month, Netflix announced plans for a second and third season. And I’ll give it another shot, whether in quarantine or not.