Photo: Gorgeous Noise
“There are a lot of things I wouldn’t share on a first date…I’m not as adventurous as you are I guess,” one woman ruminates. “I’m fine,” her date replies. “I hope my comment about children didn’t scare you.” She says that’s not the case, but it’s unclear if that’s entirely the truth. The conversation had been kind enough, but something wasn’t clicking.
In It’s a meeting, a new voyeuristic podcast series that invites listeners to listen to virtual blind dates as they happen, things can get slippery. The conversations oscillate between tension and pleasure; chemistry slips everywhere. Some grimaces and awkwardness are to be expected – after all, we’re talking about blind dates here. Specifically, we’re talking about virtual blind dates, where a few strangers call the shots, it’s all recorded, and the conversation should be released later for wide consumption.
So goes It’s a meeting, which takes the popular reality TV format and puts it all through a curious, sentiment-driven filter. The podcast’s first season, which debuted earlier this week, follows four singles — Virginia, Aziz, Khan and Amanda (not their real names) — on dates facilitated by the show’s producers. There’s an educational bent to the proceedings: Dating coach and behavioral scientist Logan Ury provides singles with advice between dates and, by extension, lessons the public can take into their own lives.
Podcasting is not particularly uncommon with shows about dating and its related concepts: sex, relationships, love. Whether you’re looking for something neat (modern love), something not so brainy (call her daddy, I guess?), or something educational (wild love), these areas have long been rich territory for discussion, storytelling, and content. Indeed, even the idea of creating a podcast around virtual dates is not that new. As of 2020, at least three audio projects with a similar premise have been released, including Parcast’s blind date, which really amps up its reality TV inspirations; Pod house Love sick, a charming if shaggy independent take on the concept; and The Guardianthe short-term adaptation of his Blind Date column.
Corn It’s a meetingThe focus on the psychology of it all brings some weight to the mix, pushing the concept into what seems like fresher territory. The series hails from Magnificent Noise, the studio notable for its work originally Where to start ?, the acclaimed couples therapy podcast starring renowned relationship psychologist Esther Perel. DNA shared between productions is easily discernible. Both are compelling consumer showcases for therapy (although therapy is presented as a kind of spectacle), and both derive their power from the voyeuristic thrill of observing intimate, private scenarios. To speak in the modern language of film franchises, Where to start ? and It’s a meeting can be described as part of the same aesthetic universe: the first is a therapy show for couples, the second for singles. If you like one, you will definitely like the other.
The band in It’s a meeting is undeniably captivating. How could it be otherwise? The podcast offers the same vicarious thrill as eavesdropping on first dates in the wild, where you, as an intruding observer, end up trying to read each individual as they try to read each other. Is there a possible future at stake? Are these two people really on the same wavelength? Did she really find this joke funny? Is he just polite? What is the best result here? Also: What would I have done in this situation? At its best, the podcast channels the distinct appeal of the traditional reality show as a pseudo-spectator sport (“I would have taken more initiative to coordinate dinner,” or so I thought in watching the first episode of Bachelor’s Hell on Netflix recently), but without the plastic artifice so ubiquitous in the genre on TV.
It’s a meetingThe episodes are guided by Jesse Baker and Hiwote Getaneh, producers of the series, who perform several overlapping tasks in the same breath. (The podcast is produced by Eleanor Kagan, instrumental to last year Welcome to your fantasy.) They act as the show’s de facto hosts, game masters, and Greek chorus, collectively taking responsibility for pitching singles to the public, managing dates by seeding the conversation with questions, and handing out commentary. to listeners as the dates play out. outside. All in all, these elements can sometimes make the show feel a little too crowded. There were a few instances over the four episodes made available for preview where the producers’ active play-by-play got in the way of digesting my own feelings about what I was hearing.
This overactivity also extends to psychology, at some cost to its participants. “I think you only like people who don’t like you, and if somebody likes you, they become ineligible, and with that pattern, it’s really hard to get into a relationship,” said the dating coach to Aziz at the start of the second episode. Khan, the focal point of the third episode, is shown to be prone to “love bombing”, a behavioral habit that involves efforts to continually shower another person with excessive affection to forge a sense of dependency. Emphasis on various psychological concepts is largely important here, but sometimes it feels like singles end up being presented primarily as representations of a problem. I wonder if a more elegant method is possible.
However, this is not a decisive factor. It’s a meeting is a compelling show that attempts to offer a radically new look at modern dating, and it largely succeeds…well, to my ears who have been married for almost a decade at least. Speaking from the outside, I can’t deny the universal appeal of what the podcast sells. What are we but lonely, fleshy creatures in search of true connection?
The series is reminiscent of my favorite entry into the vast universe of reality shows: Netflix Meetings around. Atypical among its genre in many ways, this show similarly follows a collection of blind first dates. Meetings around is kaleidoscopic. Each episode is structured around a series of first dates of the same individual that are intercut and layered on top of each other, making it seem like multiple parallel universes are happening at the same time. Yet despite its trippy presentation, the show is remarkably naturalistic and ultimately achieves the fundamental sense of possibility that energizes first dates. Unfortunately, Netflix doesn’t appear to have greenlit another season of Meetings around, but similar electricity can be found in It’s a meeting. He might be a little clunky in his first incarnation, but as a replacement he’ll do just fine.