On Monday night, the classic 1999 reality series Blind Date gets the reboot treatment on Bravo, because what the world needs right now is another vapid dating show. This is a far cry from the escapist shows that typically populate the genre, however, like the Bachelor franchise, Love Island, and Are You the One? If you would rather watch 21 minutes of two strangers with nothing in common struggling to fill awkward silences than two hours of hot Instagram influencers flirting on a Fijian beach, Blind Date will be your new favorite show.
Narrated by comedian Nikki Glaser, Bravo’s latest offering trades in secondhand embarrassment. The formula is straightforward and true to the original. Each half-hour-long episode features two pairs of strangers who meet and go on a date. They either hit it off and dry-hump in a hot tub, or it goes disastrously; there is no in-between. Contestants say things like, “I’m a master of many arts, including the art of seduction,” with complete sincerity. The dates involve activities that range from inconvenient (trying to get to know someone whilst balancing on a paddle board) to straight-up mortifying (perusing a sex toy shop with a guy who asks the employee, “Hey do y’all got those, uh, butts?”). Sometimes the producers follow up to see if the couples go out again, but no one really cares.
The first contestant we meet in the premiere is Kristen, a 34-year-old from Texas who describes herself as “a lot to handle.” She sets the tone for the entire series early by proclaiming, “Everyone has their value—for men it’s how much money you make and for women it’s how you look. No one wants to talk about it.” Yeesh. Kristen is well-matched with Peter, a mortgage broker with an affinity for calling himself “Party Peter.” People talk about themselves in the third person so much on this show that I wouldn’t be surprised if “comfortable giving yourself a cheesy nickname” was an application requirement.
Five minutes in, I am sure I would watch a spin-off show about Kristen. Take, for example, the fact that as Peter motorboats her generous cleavage, she looks bored and says, “You’re welcome.” Or the story she tells about why she broke up with her last boyfriend: “When I open up the laptop on Thanksgiving Day when I’m making side dishes for your family, and I see you soliciting hookers on Craigslist, like, we have a problem.”
There are so many follow-up questions to that story. What side dishes was she making? Was her scumbag boyfriend actually going to meet up with prostitutes on Thanksgiving, or was he just planning for later? Kristen didn’t seem sad that her boyfriend was cheating on her on a holiday so much as confused because she had already told him they could invite other women into their bedroom. Notably, Peter’s takeaway from this story is that his date can cook and is down to have a threesome, and he is predictably smitten. In the Blind Date universe of very low standards, their date was a rousing success.
The second half of the episode focuses on 26-year-old Angelique and Slick 23, the latter of whom is even more annoying than his made-up name suggests. As the couple browses sex toys, Slick 23 alternates between making blunt sexual comments and insulting his date. At one point, in response to Angelique’s uncomfortable giggles as she reluctantly lets him test out a whip on her, he disappointedly replies, “You laugh too much.” His sense of humor involves repeatedly lying to her, faking accents, and pretending to speak Japanese, and the effect is more infuriating than amusing. Only at the very end of the episode, after Slick 23 exasperatedly confesses that his name is actually Frederick, did I laugh: Even that was a lie, an off-camera producer informs poor Angelique. His real name is Earl.
In a press release, Bravo frames Blind Date as a throwback to the days before social media and apps like Tinder ruined the humanness of dating by allowing people to form preconceived notions. Indeed, Glaser reiterates this central concept in the intro to each episode, narrating, “Welcome to Blind Date, where two couples meet in real life without being able to stalk each other on social media first.”
Yet distracting, low-quality graphics plucked from Instagram and iMessage communicate a contradictory obsession with proving that this 20-year-old concept is modern enough to entertain today. The contestants are introduced via fake livestream, with off-brand smiley faces that vaguely resemble emojis peppering the screen. Blue text message bubbles replace the thought clouds from the original series, intended to provide comic relief, but that does not quite make sense here—people don’t think in text messages.
At one point, when Party Peter falls off his paddleboard, a cartoon “meme factory” pops up to meme the moment with excruciating pop culture references that someone’s middle-aged bachelor uncle might make. There were captions like “The new Drake dropped?” and “Bae caught me slippin’.” One even referenced the lyrics to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow” duet from A Star is Born.
Shockingly, for a series about incompatible, unlucky-in-love millennials going on dates that involve painting each other’s semi-nude bodies, the most cringe-inducing part of Blind Date was the producers’ desperate attempts to be cool.