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Has Amazon Found Its Own Dating Guilty Pleasure?



You might not be aware that long before Netflix discovered their forte could be producing tawdry dating shows with increasingly ridiculous premises, Amazon made Hear Me Love Me, a slightly more respectable Hindi-language series which took the whole ‘blind date’ concept literally. In the four years since, the streaming service has given its rival a free run when it comes to televised quests for love (and perhaps more accurately column inches, social media followers and lucrative endorsements). But now it wants a significant piece of that guilty pleasure pie. 

Indeed, just two months after the premiere of Lovestruck High, where Lindsay Lohan presides over a bunch of British twenty-somethings living out their American prom date fantasies, Amazon has now dropped another amorous nostalgia-fest which appears to have been conceived during a fever dream. 

As its title suggests, Prime Video’s The One That Got Away (which premiered on June 24) gives six singletons the chance to ignite, or rekindle, a spark with several people from their past. There’s high-maintenance model Alyssa (“I can be a bit much” is an understatement), womanizing realtor Nigel, serial monogamist lawyer Vince, deceptively sweet country girl Ashley and two participants with very 21st century jobs, travel blogger and drag brunch organizer Jeff and Twitch streamer Kasey. 

Leaning fully into the show’s time-travel element, each of their old acquaintances (and they often have to juggle several at a time) emerges through a wobbly-looking, mist-filled forest setting, possibly borrowed from the nearest amateur theater troupe, dubbed The Portal. “It could literally be anyone” clarifies Aussie-American singer Betty Who – perhaps best-known to reality fans as the voice behind Queer Eye’s theme tune – pulling triple duty as host, serenader and shoulder to cry on. And she’s not wrong.  

While some suitors are old flames who were a case of wrong time or close friends who no longer want to be strictly platonic, others can only be described as oddities. Showrunner Elan Gale (The Bachelor, FBOY Island) claims that “Each and every person who walks through The Portal has a complex history with the person they’ve come to date.” That doesn’t quite tally with the prospective partner who’d barely spent more than a few hours with Ashley at a work conference. Nor, in a clear sign that producers had run out of ideas, a random Instagram follower. 

“The creepiest thing I’ve ever heard,” complains the screen-hogging Allyssa after learning her latest admirer is someone who’s took sliding into her DMs to the next level (the bewildered schmuck makes possibly the briefest dating show appearance ever). It’s possibly the only time you’ll sympathize with the 25-year-old who seems to go out of her way to receive the villain’s edit. Barely a confessional goes by without a mean girl putdown and she has a completely inability to hide her disdain at the men trying to win her heart. There’s even an attempt to swoop in on Kasey’s possible beau with no hint of shame. And the fact Allyssa is initially lumbered with someone who appears to be the living embodiment of McLovin’ suggests she pissed off producers during the audition process, too. 

However, there are other less cartoonish contenders, too. Ashley spends most of her time being passive-aggressive, or just plain aggressive, to anyone who even dares mildly disagrees with her. And judging by a rather confusing off-camera discussion recalled on camera the following day, Kasey’s ‘Work Study Buddy’ (each new arrival is given a handy nickname – see Happy Hour Hottie, Bestie with Benefits etc.) Dylan can gaslight as effectively as he can charm. 

While the casting team are blatantly just as interested in manipulating tension as matchmaking, they should be applauded for offering a little more diversity than your average melodramatic romance contest. Unlike Netflix’s flagship offering Love Is Blind, its pool of competitors isn’t overwhelmingly white, nor does it sideline its characters of color. It even recognizes that yes, there are some gay people who also want to experience the contrived merry-go-round of TV dating in the shape of Jeff and his never-ending slightly incestuous group of friends. 

And while old romantics might not appreciate the ‘swipe right’ approach, the show’s revolving door of potential partners does put pay to contestants immediately declaring their undying love for each other. Why put all your eggs in one basket when someone much more suitable could be around the corner, or more specifically behind a foggy fake rock boulder? There’s still plenty of cringe if that’s your thing, though, from the super-Italian-American neighbor more concerned with plugging his cheese merchant skills (Kasey has surely moved house since) to possibly the most awkward kiss since Liza Minnelli and David Gest’s wedding. 

Of course, despite the promise of a “new and radical social experiment,” The One That Got Away still falls victim to the same corny old tropes elsewhere. Royalty-free songs which explain exactly what’s happening on screen, for example, or the insinuation that anyone who hasn’t settled down by the age of 30 is destined to die alone. There’s also a distinct lack of structure to the format, with suitors coming and going at the drop of a hat and little sign in the nine episodes available (of ten) of how it’s all going to be wrapped up. 

Nevertheless, in the new age of dating shows, it’s the journey that matters not the destination. Few participants here truly signed up with the intention of finding a happy ever after. But most play the game savvily enough to ensure that trash TV lovers will keep binge-watching Amazon’s belated foray into the genre regardless.

Jon O’Brien (@jonobrien81) is a freelance entertainment and sports writer from the North West of England. His work has appeared in the likes of Vulture, Esquire, Billboard, Paste, i-D and The Guardian. 





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