Unlike a lot of contrived reality-dating programs, “Dating in the Dark” has identifiable real-world underpinnings — namely, that person you’ve been talking to over the phone or emailing, and how you react upon finally meeting them in person. So while the series sounds rather outlandish in the way European formats can — people meeting in a blackened room, so it’s literally a “blind date,” while we watch thanks to infrared imaging — the “God, I hope she’s hot” mentality, as one contestant puts it, does resonate.Perhaps not surprisingly — this is reality TV, after all — the women here are every bit as shallow as the men, with one fretting that the guy she likes might turn out to be Shrek. Actually, the casting is a little more shrewd than that: All six contestants — evenly divided between women and men, ages 27-31, in the premiere — are reasonably attractive but nothing to cause heads to pivot in a crowded bar. At first that seems to blunt the drama, but it more effectively builds suspense toward the big humiliation: Whether the person they’ve chosen shows up once they’ve seen them, or leaves them hanging, alone, and simply takes off. That on-the-balcony meeting is clearly the program’s money shot, with the dates and fairly chaste making out in the darkened room mostly amounting to time-killing until that payoff. The only really creepy moment comes when the players are asked to disrobe so their potential mates can check out not only their clothes but the smell on them. The politics of who winds up with whom, meanwhile, are clearly manipulated along the way, which includes informing the participants whom “experts” have designated as their most compatible match; still, there’s enough here that’s relatable to ensure the show works better than a number of similarly themed constructs. “Is love blind?” host Rossi Morreale asks near the outset, telegraphing the women’s-magazine hook for the series. The answer is clearly no. Yet as presented, “Dating in the Dark” mercifully makes the orchestrated search for TV romance a little less deaf and dumb than it could have been.
ABC, Mon. July 20, 10 p.m.
Produced by Steele Mill Prods. and Endemol USA and Talpa Content. Executive producer, Tom Shelly; co-executive producer, Richard Devinki; supervising producer, Tahirih Kennedy; producer, Patrick Bachmann.
Camera, Jim Harrington; music, David Vanacore; casting, Katy Wallin-Sandalis. RUNNING TIME: 60 MIN.
Host: Rossi Morreale.
Data provided by:Nielsen Media Research (Preliminary Results)