After the huge success of “Love is Blind” and “Too Hot To Handle,” Netflix knows one thing for sure: its viewers crave reality TV shows.
So it’s no surprise that in March, the streaming service announced that “love has no offseason.” That means the streamer is bringing eight shows in the genre — some new, like “Jewish Matchmaking,” and some returning — to viewers next year. The company even made the announcement via a catchy tune, sung by “Love is Blind” co-host Nick Lachey and some favorite faces from Netflix’s reality dating universe.
“Certain categories like dating and relationships have proven to be fertile ground in terms of what viewers really like to see,” said Brandon Riegg, vice president of unscripted series and documentaries at Netflix. “Our job was to start creating offerings in these different categories and figure out what kind of approach resonated most with our members.”
The key to that: authentic and relevant shows.
“Love and dating are super connected,” Riegg said. “These shows need to reflect the same truth and relativity that you see in your own life or that of your friends and colleagues. It’s really been a North Star for us as we look at these projects.”
Netflix’s move to expand its roster comes as other studios and streamers are also doubling down on the genre.
Long before streaming services existed, ABC reigned supreme with its “Bachelor” franchise and spin-off shows. Now, there’s no shortage of programming in the genre — shows like “FBOY Island” and “My Mom, Your Dad” on HBO Max; “90 Day Fiancé” on TLC; and “Love Island,” which premiered in the UK and now has its US version on Paramount+.
There are “a lot of great shows on cable and other streaming services jumping into this space,” Riegg said. “It’s not like we’re the only ones doing it. But I’m proud of what we’ve done with it.”
Love and dating are super connected. These shows should reflect the same truth and relativity that you see in your own life or that of your friends and colleagues.
-Brandon Riegg, VP of Unscripted Series and Documentaries at Netflix
“It’s an evergreen category,” he added.
Going all out in the genre has paid off. As MSNBC columnist Emma Gray noted in her latest article, “The proliferation of streaming services and a global pandemic have created the optimal conditions for a reality television renaissance: lower budgets, tighter execution, fewer locations, and an audience trapped at home ready to consume content.”
“Our appetites are voracious — for love, for roadmaps, for people who do everything wrong so we can reassure ourselves that we’re getting something right,” Gray, who is the co-host, wrote. from the “Love to See It” podcast. who dissects reality TV shows.
‘The Ultimatum’ is Netflix’s latest offering
Netflix’s latest offering is “The Ultimatum,” which debuted on Wednesday. It features six couples who decide to enter the show, or “experiment” as many of them call it, because one partner is ready to marry, while the other is not equally safe. Thus, an ultimatum is issued – and in just over eight weeks they must commit to getting married or moving on.
“I think every human being on the planet wants to be loved for who they are on the inside,” said executive producer Chris Coelen, CEO of Kinetic Content, who is also behind “Love is Blind. “.
“‘The Ultimatum’ is one of those archetypes that you hear about in our world,” he added. “It’s also relatable…every person who is of a certain age or maturity has been in a relationship, has been in some way emotionally or mentally in a place where they envision a long-term commitment to someone. [in that situation] thought am I more advanced than my partner? If you haven’t been in that situation, it’s unusual, but you know people who have been in that situation.”
Coelen said he loves the relationship genre because there are “all kinds of ways to look at relationships, and all kinds of points where people are in relationships.”
“It’s very real and the stakes are very high and there can be a very lasting positive impact for the people who go on these shows,” he said.
On Thursday afternoon, “Ultimatum” ranked no. 2 in the United States, Riegg noted.
“It just shows that we’ve found this great sweet spot,” he said.
What makes a good reality TV show?
At home, viewers see the altered version of “reality”. For the producers of these shows, the behind-the-scenes process is equally exciting.
For “Love is Blind,” for example, Coelen said they had over 30,000 hours of footage to go through. There were couples who got engaged that didn’t even make it to the final cut of the show.
So what makes a reality show good? How do producers know what to include and what to omit?
“If there was a magic formula, we should protect it and get into it,” Coelen joked. “I’m half kidding.”
Cian O’Clery, series director and executive producer of “Love On The Spectrum,” said there’s room for so many different styles of reality shows, which is what makes the genre so interesting.
His docu-reality series, of which Netflix will release a US version this year, follows people with autism as they navigate the world of dating and relationships.
“As with everything, it’s all about the storytelling and the characters,” he said of what makes a show compelling. “I think it’s about people connecting with people on screen and wanting to join them on their journeys.”
Of course, O’Clery said, “some reality shows work when you have villains and drama and conflict.” But, he thinks some “work well when it’s just about connecting and people trying to find that special someone.”
Viki Kolar, executive producer of “Too Hot To Handle,” agreed.
“When shows try to distract themselves from that too much, when drama is just for drama’s sake, people shut down,” she said.
“Really, I think what makes it good is that the people there are believable,” she said. “When you’re there and you watch it, they fall in love with each other. Obviously real life takes over [after the show wraps]. But in that moment, guided by someone who makes them be honest about their feelings, what makes it good is that they are following real feelings. Yes, we produce, [but] we are not fake producers. We only guide.”
The reality show genre is what O’Clery described as “a renaissance right now.”
“What’s interesting is that the space expands in different ways,” he said. “It’s not all shows like ‘The Bachelor’. We get different kinds of perspectives.”