Heather and I were chatting the other day about the paucity of new rom-coms. My take on it is that the audience that longs to watch romances is being redirected in part to reality TV: The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, etc. For example, I recently watched Season 1 of Love is Blind and noticed that it is crafted and edited to match standard rom-com “beats”.
The premise is ridiculously intriguing—couples get engaged without ever seeing each other. That may be the most comedy we get with this one. That and Jessica’s “cringeworthy” drinking (her words, not mine). So maybe it’s more of a romance. Let’s beat out Love is Blind!
Remember, the show doesn’t play out naturally. The editors put the story together for us.
SET UP: Couples start in separate apartments—boys and girls. They cut together interviews of each guy and girl, and what they are looking for in love (actually, they only talk to the protagonists who will walk down the aisle—others get cut!). They focus on why they are looking for love, their background, who will complete them. They include likeable shots for each contestant, so we like them for being fun, intelligent, kind, etc.
CUTE MEET: In the “pods” that keep the contestants from seeing each other, the focus is on the first date. What happened? They edit out all the boring conversations, and focus on any conversation that seemed like a spark of connection. “You like the Cubs?! I like the Cubs!” Wow.
We spend a few dates watching the couples start to bond. The editors kept any scene of them crying together “What was your favorite children’s book? Mine, too!!” . And the editors kept a bit of conflict with some “who do you like?” tension back in the girl’s apartments.
After some crying dates, a few couples get engaged. Sight Unseen. The proposals were kind of sweet. More crying. But then they get to meet the next day.
This was by far the best part. They have gotten engaged and are now getting to meet for the first time. They are nervous, get dressed up, have a lot of “I hope I look okay” and “I don’t care what he/she looks like” comments.
Before they meet, they stand on opposite sides of a hallway, behind closed doors. Doors go up, and the couple runs to each other. Of course they are delighted with how the other person looks, because Netflix cast a bunch of gorgeous people for this show. But you could also tell which couple had instant physical chemistry. Rom-com note: Casting!
They are engaged, and happy, now what? It’s only episode 2. What does Netflix do to keep it interesting? Remember, happy couples are boring. They add:
A Trip to Mexico—FUN AND GAMES. They set up romantic excursions together in beautiful locations. Does the physical relationship work? Sexy time, drinks, beach walks, boat rides. More sexy time.
MIDPOINT – the editors make it seem like some couples are hot to trot, jumping all over each other, while others are not connecting. “Kissing him just feels wrong.” (oh, no!) In the rom com world we call this the “sex at 60” beat. It’s where our protagonists kiss or have sex (depending on the rating) for the first time. The term comes from a time when movies were a 120 minutes long and the protagonist connected romantically/physically at the half way mark or 60 minutes.
Next the BAD GUYS CLOSE IN. Let’s add more complications – you can never have enough complications!
They all go back to Atlanta (why do they all live in Atlanta? Oh well.). They are forced to live together in a small, but nice condo. Oh, and the other couples are also living in the same building. The “bad guys” are now reality, the other couples, and family.
The couples have to go see each other’s places (“Wow—he still has roommates?”), meet the friends, and…meet the parents. The editors really tried to add drama to the parents. “Family is everything. It’s really important that my parents like him!” and “You think I’m a lot to handle, wait ‘til you meet my mom!” There was some excellent drama in the meet-the-parents scenes (not as good as the movie, “Meet the Parents”, though…)
But again, happy couples are boring, the editors really dialed up differences that would force these couples apart. They made kinda small things seem like huge obstacles. They’re an interracial couple!! She’s ten years older than he is! He’s got a stable job, and she’s unemployed with a lot of credit card debt! If we wrote these conflicts into a rom-com, they would see like pretty easy obstacles to overcome.
Finally… or FINALE as we say in the biz. The season ends with a wedding for each engaged couple. In their quest to up the drama the producers created a weird contrivance that the couples must agree to a wedding to be included in the show. Both people had to decide at the alter if they want to go through with it—I’m guessing it was part of the show contract. Otherwise, I don’t know why some of the couples wouldn’t just call it off days before.
But it works! Good job stringent story contracts and ambitious editors! For each couple, they edited it together so it appears that one person is hopelessly in love, and the other isn’t sure. At the alter, they always have the “yes, of course” person go first, and then they added lots of cutaways to the parents and sisters, biting nails and exchanging glances…before the other person answers. Some answered “yes” (Love is blind!), and some answered “no” (Does love care more about credit card debt?)
Netflix cut these scenes together so that the most romantic wedding was last. End on a high note!
So, what have we learned about writing rom-coms from Love is Blind?
Start with beautiful people longing for love, a CUTE MEET, touching tears of emotional connection, fun at gorgeous locations, sexy dates, conflict from reality, more conflict from family/friends/society!, someone gets cold feet, tension, moment of truth, and a happy ending.
That’s our rom-com. But it could have been a lot funnier. 😊