Reality Roundup: Sunrise, Sunset

I have never felt joy as pure as the day that my friends and I spent in the collective silence of our table at a small Brooklyn restaurant, looking at neither each other nor our phones, while leaning ever-so-slightly (and oh-so-obviously) to hear every last word of silly yet completely self-important first daters in animated discussion mere inches from our table.  And while the beauty of that moment can never truly be recreated, the latest reality dating shows come very close.  Whether it’s looking in on the beginning of what might be a relationship on Date Night Live or revisiting the end on A Night With my Ex, each show offers a chance to creep in on other people’s problems.  Below are a few key concepts that have cropped up during recent outings.

1. Open Relationships

“That’s where she gets to have sex with other men and I pretend to be ok with it” – Date Night Live’s Billy, on what he apparently thinks is an open relationship (it’s not).

Billy is a man who, right off the bat, voluntarily offers that he likes to cry, spends his days watching Hamilton mashups on YouTube, and has his own podcast.  In other words, he’s my soulmate (if I could only do three things for the rest of my life, I’m pretty sure it would be those three things) – so naturally, I knew there was going to be a catch.

Sure enough, Billy has a girlfriend, and Billy’s girlfriend has other boyfriends.  While his situation isn’t particularly unusual (confirmed by my extremely scientific survey of countless Tinder profiles proudly proclaiming “Poly” or “Ethical Non-Monogamous” or some random collection of constants that I have to google because I am NOT cool), his positioning seems a little odd.  The way he tells it (and boy, does he tell his poor date Desiree), no woman would date him, and the one who finally did wanted to date other people too, and there you have it – television gold (for everyone except poor Desiree, at least).

“She liked us booooottthhhh” –  A Night With my Ex’s Sunnie, screaming as she runs out onto the sidewalk for no real reason

Like Billy, Sunnie did not spring her significant other in the beginning of her scene.  Playing it cool with the reveal, she let her ex Matt stew in the guilt of his dirty cheating past (he had been sleeping with Sunnie’s best friend – but so, apparently, had Sunnie) before bringing her current girlfriend into the mix and offering Matt what seemed to vacillate between an open relationship arrangement and a full-on thruple situation.

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While Matt’s stunned, slightly confused reaction is worthy of a spin-off all its own, I have to give Sunnie some credit not only for rebounding from the cheating revelation so quickly, but for knowing what she wanted and going for it.  After all, you’ll never know if you don’t ask – and, more importantly, if Sunnie hadn’t asked, we wouldn’t be able to watch the fallout.

2. Stunningly basic Clichés

I could almost hear the collective eye-muscle lift, setting off epic rolls throughout the nation, when Date Night Live’s Makena stood behind her date Sam on the bow of a small boat, stretching his arms out to the side with her own.  Granted, she scored the premiere’s only make out session as a result (the Jack-and-Kate moment was supplemented by drinking directly from a collectively-opened bottle of champagne, which didn’t hurt), but the oh-so-played Titanic reenactment really reserves a rest from screens of all sizes at this point.

Playing with an internet-driven cliché, A Night with my Ex’s Fabian (I swear, that was his name) saw far less success than the intrepid Makena.  While Fabian’s feelings towards Rachel may  have been complicated (he cheated on her after four years of dating but, upon seeing her for the first time in a year, asked almost immediately whether or not she was still a virgin – because, you know, that was still very important to him), his Pinterest-powered mini mason jar proposal to her was not.  Sadly, not even the mind-blowingly basic presentation of a man who, only the night before, had lain sweetly beside her while making rapid jerking motions under the cover that Bravo was apparently not above airing could erase Rachel’s memory of the not-so-distance past, prompting her to respond with a stream of uncomfortably appropriate laughter.  Finally managing to stutter out “really?…why?,” Rachel’s response to an all-too-simple (and all-too-outrageously inappropriate) proposal represented the most right-minded thinking I’ve seen on reality television since Cat and Lyle’s Southern Charm Savannah finale journey.

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3. Physical Attraction (but it could just be the alcohol talking)

“I felt it in my vagina…that’s gotta be love right?” – Sunnie (who, when you think about it, really has as valid a definition of love as anyone)

A hero was born when Sunnie, parading into A Night With my Ex’s camera-rigged apartment, made a beeline for the bar and double shot of a dark liquid.  Granted, her choices got the best of her when late-night confessions from her ex-boyfriend let loose a maniacal rage that involved flying drinks and broken classes – but that’s apparently just Sunnie’s love language.

Certainly, she made clear to the camera and to Matt that she is still very much attracted to him – enough so to drag him onto a reality show to see what the two might still be able to explore.

“I’m not feeling tingly anywhere.  So.” – Desiree (who just gets it)

On as much a search for that evasive chemistry as she is down for being filmed live during her dating escapades, Desiree was struck by that unfortunate first-date realization that she didn’t want the young man drinking across from her to come anywhere near here (it didn’t help, of course, that he withheld his open-relationship status for half the time, then immediately burdened her with his own perceived relationship shortcomings for the remainder).  The combination of her “not feeling it” insightfulness and “not taking it” reaction to Billy’s non-date of a date offers a lesson we can all learn from – and try (though we will almost certainly fail) not to repeat.

New episodes of A Night with My Ex air 10:00pm ET Tuesday on Bravo and are available the next day on-demand.

New episodes of Date Night Live air 9:00pm ET Thursday on Lifetime and are available the next day on-demand.

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