For some reason 2020 has become the year that I started watching reality dating shows. I’ve never seen an episode of The Bachelor or any of its spinoff franchises because I don’t appreciate the lack of diversity or adherence to traditional gender roles. But then came Netflix’s mega-hit Love Is Blind, where singles essentially speed date without ever seeing who they’re talking to. You can only meet face to face after somebody pops the question. It’s ridiculous, full of drama, and I was hooked, didn’t really care if any of the couples found everlasting love. So naturally, my ears perked up when I heard Love Is Blind’s showrunner had another reality dating format to bookend my 2020, and of top of that, it’s holiday themed. Bring on 12 Dates of Christmas.
You have 3 romantic leads: Chad, Faith, and Garrett. Chad and Faith are straight, Garrett’s gay, and they’re all looking to make a real connection with somebody they can bring home for Christmas. Faith is a gorgeous model and stylist who’s been single for five years, so why not try a dating show? Chad’s a self-described relationship guy, who’s looking for a love like his parents have. Garrett is a New York City real estate developer who’s never brought anyone home for the holidays. They’ve all come together to find love in a castle in Austria. It’s like they’re dating in a snow globe. In fact, the castle is actually Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron, the same place Maria von Trapp fell in love in The Sound Of Music. There are dates on the ski hill, karaoke nights, ugly Christmas sweater parties. It’s a festive rom-com come to life in the best way. But it’s also super family-friendly. You will not see any over-the-top, The Bachelor-style lip-locking here, only romantic pecks and usually the person asks permission before they lean in.
But it can’t all be holly-jolly when you’re dating multiple people. It’s usually when the leads are having a great one-on-one date that the producers send in another suitor to crash the party, making for some beautifully awkward moments. What’s even better is all the suitors are free to talk with one another inside the castle and you get to see the twinkle of jealousy in the eyes of those who say ‘I’m not threatened by the competition.’ Some of the leads are pretty diplomatic about the multi-dating, while others welcome the fresh meat with their tongues waging. I swear, one of them hits it off with almost every new suitor. Taking a shot every time they say ‘there’s definitely a connection there’ is a great drinking game. If you watch, you’ll know who I’m talking about right away. I swear they kiss every new person sent their way, which makes it extra surprising for those suitors when they’re sent home anyway. The elimination ceremony is generally the time in the show when I yell at my screen the most because somebody (usually Garrett!) is sending home the wrong person. I call him “Garrett the Gaslighter”, because he will tell a suitor he ‘hasn’t felt this way about someone in a long time,’ and then send them packing a few episodes later or kiss someone and then turn around and tell them they’re too clingy.
For some reason there’s not a lot online about this show, probably because it’s on HBO Max and Crave in Canada, but it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. I thought maybe I watched the finale already, but then read online that the finale two episodes drop this Thursday. I’m not sure why the show is so low-profile. HBO Max needs to step up their marketing game because I already want season two next Christmas. Perhaps they were betting on some word-of-mouth buzz but they don’t have the 195 million subscriber base that Netflix does — they need to promote it. Perhaps they’re waiting until closer to Christmas for a big push. It’s perfect parts cheesy rom-com and juicy reality show. The perfect holiday binge.