shows like the bachelor australia

3 Underrated Dating Shows To Fill The Bachelor-shaped Void In Your Life

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It’s hard to explain the absolute chokehold that The Bachelor franchise has held on me this past decade. Call me a hopeless romantic (or diagnose me with Stockholm Syndrome), but I’ve almost unwillingly lapped up everything Osher and his minions have served me. The good, the bad, the deeply cringe and every rose ceremony in between. 

Despite my morbid fascination with the show, I’m well aware of the fact that what it represented was a far cry from modern love and the pursuit to attain it (I myself can’t remember the last time skydiving or a group photoshoot for New Idea helped me score a second date). So, while I continued to watch it, it was mostly out of cynicism and for the lols. 

bachelor chocolate bath date

Perhaps it was for the best that earlier this week, Channel 10 confirmed the franchise has been axed for 2024; an unsurprising move given the show’s plummeting ratings and rigid format, but disappointing nonetheless. So, with this in mind, please allow me to recommend three of the best dating shows I’ve come across during my travels around television. While each show has some sort of stakes or schtick, I’ve found them to be far more realistic in portraying the trials and tribulations that come with dating in the twenty-first century. 

Love Triangle UK 

You may be familiar with the show, as it was introduced to viewers back in 2022 and aired two seasons with an Australian cast. While I watched and loved these seasons, there’s something about the Brits that just do it for me, so my official recommendation is the first season of the UK iteration. The show was created by the twisted minds behind MAFS Australia, which has had an incredibly successful run airing across the pond, so it makes sense that the UK would want to get their hands on this format for themselves. 

The premise: Six main contestants (men and women) are given phone numbers of two potential love interests, and tasked with choosing one person to go on a date with after a short period of getting to know each other via messaging. It’s similar to dating apps, however there are no photos involved so it really does feel more personality-based. Once a selection has been made, the contestants meet their chosen suitor for a date, and whether or not it goes well, they’re forced to move in together the very next day. Think MAFS, but no illusion of marriage. 

After a couple of days of living together, we see how all the couples are getting along. Some pairings hit it off instantly, while other contestants lament over their choice, pondering what could have been had they picked differently. This is where the plot twist is introduced (stay with me here).

Each contestant and their chosen suitors meet up for a meal (again, similar to MAFS dinner parties but way less chaotic), and simultaneously all of the contestants get text messages from their rejected suitors, revealing that it’s their turn for a date. Not only this, but we learn that the rejects will be taking the place of the chosen suitors for a week, evicting them from the house and moving in with the contestant. After living with both choices for a week each, the contestant then has to choose who they’d like to “end up with”. 

Why I love it: Aside from the fact that it’s messy af, I feel this show really nails a lot of aspects of dating. From the very start, we see how different people communicate with strangers when the prospect of dating is on the table. We see contestants get the ick from certain messages, reveal way too much way too soon, or try to analyse the tone of a message. We see contestants reflecting on their usual type, their bad habits, what they want vs. what they know they need etc. We see just how different dynamics can be between messaging and real-life interactions. We see disappointment, we see potential for growth, we see sparks and we see just how much looks can factor into things. We also get a look into people’s attachment styles and how the concept of dating multiple people can be incredibly divisive and triggering. 

I would recommend this show to anyone who loves MAFS but wishes it was a little more human and a little less hectic. 

You can watch Love Triangle UK on Stan.

Dating Around

This show has been on Netflix for the past five years, but as far as I’m aware, never made a big splash. 

This might be because of the show’s low key, relaxed nature; the exact reason I adore it. The two seasons, filmed beautifully across New York and New Orleans, feature six self-contained episodes each, depicting a short but sweet look at first dates and what might get you over the line for a second date.

The premise: Each episode, a man or woman goes on four blind dates. They then select one person to go on a second date with, or choose to fly solo. That’s it. It’s really simple. There’s no money on the line, no crazy locations or stipulations. It’s a person going for a meal and/or a drink with someone and we get to watch. 

Why I love it: This show is almost unnervingly natural. It very rarely has any score or music, so we’re not taking any cues from producers as to how to feel. It’s just a glimpse into first dates and how they vary so much. The nervousness, the drinking too much, the conversations deep and shallow. I love watching people with chemistry and some of these dates are hot as hell. It’s also the most diverse casting I’ve ever seen on a reality dating show. From age to sexual orientation to race, this series showcases everything and it does it authentically. Another great production angle is that they have the person going on these dates wearing the exact same thing every date, so it feels like all these dates are magically taking place all on the same night and we’re just switching effortlessly between alternate realities. 

I would recommend this show to anyone who hasn’t dated in a while and is feeling a little rusty. My best friend and I went through a period where we’d line up our respective first dates on the same night and pre-drink together watching this show. It really helped take the edge off!

You can watch Dating Around on Netflix.

Swiping America

Why am I crying after rewatching this trailer though?! 

Ok, I saved my favourite til last. Swiping America is a masterpiece and I’ll die on that hill. Released last June, this eight-part, self-described “Rom-Doc” produced by Max (aka HBO) is a charming adventure with stunning cinematography and a cast you’re genuinely rooting for. 

The premise: Four New Yorkers fed up with the local dating scene embark on an eight city dating experiment, constructed by producers but not at all manufactured. Travelling across the country in the hopes of finding someone to connect with, these four strangers (two straight women, a lesbian woman and gay man), go on several dates per city with suitors they’ve swiped on using a custom-made app full of hand-selected options. Imagine Bumble, but someone has weeded out all the duds for you already. 

There are no “rules” per se, but as the final destination of the trip is Honolulu, the idea is for each single to invite one suitor that they’ve met along the way to join them for the holiday.

Why I love it: Oh my god, guys. This casting is chef’s kiss. You will fall in love with Reagan, Ashleigh, Kesun and Krish, and you will fall in love with them falling in love with each other. My favourite thing about the show is the friendship these four form, and how sincerely they support each other along the way. They’re always there for a wine and debrief post-date, and they also try to push each other and help each other grow. They’re very generous leads, sharing their insecurities, traumas and vulnerabilities, but they’re also fun and funny and light-hearted. This show is less about dating and more about the psychology behind dating and preparing to share yourself with someone new. It’s also a great glimpse into some of America’s cities you may not see represented often, and you can really tell it has Max’s budget behind it because it’s all shot beautifully. 

I would recommend this to anyone. Seriously, go watch it and thank me later. 

You can watch Swiping America on Binge

Written by Lil Friedmann, a staunch defender of reality television. You can follow her at @lilfriedmann on socials.

Image credit: Channel 10