Looking for Love
July 29, 2020
Without making this too much of a confessional about my viewing tendencies, suffice it to say I’ve watched my share of dating themed television shows.
While I have never sat through an episode of The Bachelor, my children are still horrified by my fascination with the Flavor of Love, a reality competition where a group of women vie for the affections of Flavor Flav, the hype man for the rap group Public Enemy.
I’ve also been known to watch Netflix’ Married at First Sight (where people meet each other for the first time at the wedding alter after being matched by a team of matchmakers), Love is Blind (where people court each other sight unseen until they decide to get hitched), and Too Hot to Handle (a celibacy challenge for a group of horny singles thrown together on a beach resort). So, it wasn’t a surprise when the system suggested I watch a new show called Love on the Spectrum, a five-episode Australian show that follows a group of young adults on the autism spectrum seeking romantic partners.
Love on the Spectrum is respectful of its subjects. It offers an often-subtle commentary on dating rituals and is a refreshing take on the genre. Because these shows are often designed as competitions, they tend to thrive on bad behavior. Love on the Spectrum is free of that. As a result, it has a warmth that is often lacking in the other shows.
The show features people on the autism spectrum dating for the first time, working with a dating coach who specializes in helping people with spectrum disorders, as well as two couples who have been together for a while a (spoiler alert) and become engaged as the show progresses.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of Love on the Spectrum is that it features the most self-aware and likeable group of people on any of these shows I have watched.
The types of manipulative, duplicitous, and delusional characters that tend to populate these shows are absent. It is a program about people searching for love that actually features people searching for love. They are sincere in their quest for a lasting and loving relationship and refreshingly, are not trying to build a social media empire or pursuing some other twisted ambition for fame by appearing on the show.
Granted, the people featured on the show have more interest in things like Star Wars, anime, trains, dinosaurs, and comic conventions than the typical folks featured on dating-themed reality shows, but perhaps that’s just because they are more open about it.
While the dramatic tension in these types of shows often comes from a fight that is brewing or anticipation of the discovery of one person having wronged another, the tension in Love on the Spectrum comes in large part from whether or not someone will be able to sustain a conversation or run out of things to say on a first date, and the threat of awkwardness that comes with that.
And while there is a tendency while watching this genre to root for one or two participants and loathe others, I found myself rooting for all of the people in Love on the Spectrum
People often have many misconceptions about the intelligence, emotions, and desires of people with spectrum disorders. If nothing else, viewers should walk away from watching the show not thinking about how strange, quirky, or different people with spectrum disorders are, but rather how much we all have in common.
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