A couple months ago, I deleted Tinder from my phone, fed up with the deluge of passive, shirtless guys on there. Great idea, thanks for the memories, but I'm gone. Some of my friends still entertain it, gathering stories to be published in Fangoria, I presume. There are so many awkward tales that network TV wants to tap into this and show what it's like to date in the social era.
TREND: The new fall rom-com-flavored lineup is trying hard to (mis)represent the modern dating world in what New Republic refers to as "the season of the rom-com sitcom." Among the new programming: A to Z, A Manhattan Love Story, Selfie and Marry Me, which I assume is co-produced by Bruno Mars and YouTube. Esther Breger writes:
The Hollywood romantic comedy—boy meets girl meets true love, accompanied by light banter and quirky friends—has been in a box office rut these past few years, occasionally finding success with independent films like Obvious Child. But twenty-five years after When Harry Met Sally, the beleaguered genre has found a new home on television.
Looking to television for relationship guidance is dangerous, but let's face it: I've watched a few thousand crappy romantic comedies and ended up doing some IMPT self-reflecting, soul-searching as a result. Just last week, I dreamt about Danny Castellano, Dr. Mindy Lahiry's grumpy professional-dancer boyfriend on The Mindy Project; it sparked an epiphany about my habit of dating younger guys and dismissing the upstanding qualities of those my age. I also watched this scene several times:
In the spirit of giving things a chance, I caught up with the series premieres of Selfie , A to Z and Manhattan Love Story online over the weekend. The latter stars Jake McDorman (as Peter) and former America's Top Model contestant Analeigh Tipton (Dana). The pilot opens with Peter walking down the street while archaically surveying and approving (in his head) the women he sees. Both of their thoughts serve as voiceovers, which would work if those thoughts were smart or layered, but it's more like, "He thinks that I'm going back to his place. I hate that he's right."
Then she said, amirite.
There's a void of shows that skillfully and organically integrate our love of social media, but making it work involves a degree of self-awareness. Selfie does it halfway effectively. It plays off the odd couple rom-com trope, pairing old-school-minded marketing expert Henry (played by John Cho) with new-media narcissist Eliza (Karen Gillan). Siri, hashtags and text messaging are all employed in the first episode, and it's kinda sloppy, but at least the show isn't shoveling tired punchlines (yet) about old people on The BookFace. EW writes:
These series tap into some of the most comical missteps of the autocorrect age and the boneheaded things people do when communication is instant, constant, indelible and irreversible.
In Manhattan Love Story, when Dana (Analeigh Tipton) tries to Google Peter (Jake McDorman) on her smartphone, she mistakenly types his name into her status update, which is like telling the world either that they are an item or she is a stalker. Her type-A friend, Amy (Jade Catta-Preta), who is never not online or on her headset, even while leading a yoga class, lets Dana know instantly, driving Dana to "undo" her gaffe by pummelling her phone. "Yes," Amy drawls, "if you smash your phone the Internet disappears."
I'm on the fence about A to Z, where Ben Feldman plays Andrew, who works at a matchmaking site. The dialogue barely held my attention, but I'm giving it a few episodes because I loved Feldman as Ginsberg on Mad Men and he looks a lot like Charles from Charles in Charge. Again, online dating is central to the plot. Says The New York Times:
Technology may be the only thing that grounds these series in 2014. Yes, the couples connect through Facebook and Tinder, but they don't seem to know how online dating works. True, Andrew (Ben Feldman) meets Zelda (Cristin Milioti) through his job at an online dating service on A to Z (NBC), a quirky meet-cute...that charts their relationship from beginning to end. Yet they're introduced when the site accidentally sets up Zelda with a woman—a mistake that's virtually impossible in real life, since profiles include photos and simple Google stalking can tell you the rest.
It's not just the Internet-y stuff that's missing an authenticity chip in these shows. It's also the diversity of romance. I watch a criminally insane amount of TV, so it's important to see women who remind me of me navigate the dating world and fumble. As much as I find kinship with characters like Liz Lemon and my animated sister from another Tina Belcher, I'm a single, black, city woman and therefore virtually invisible in TV land.
More often than not, I find myself saying, that's nothing like what I experience (it's more like what happens in Awkward Black Girl). BET's Being Mary Jane offers one option, but I was hoping we'd witness more of Gabrielle Union's character dating around rather than sleeping with a married man.
With The Mindy Project, what's appealing is the dynamic between a dark and dreamy misanthrope and an idealist, rom-com-obsessed woman of color. It's easy to see how this helps diversify our perspectives. While we don't need exact replicas of our personal lives, I can't help but continue to relentlessly (hopelessly even) campaign for variety.
Image via NBC