An overly-familiar dating show, Singletown has some charms and drama for genre fans, but it isn’t a long-term thing.
This review of Singletown (HBO Max) is spoiler-free.
Dating shows remain endlessly popular, and if Love Is Blind is anything to go by, they’ve found a particularly enthusiastic binge-watching crowd on streaming services. With that in mind, it’s shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that HBO Max picked up the ITV2 import Singletown, a British dating show originally conceived as a competitor to – or at least a replacement for – the absurdly popular Love Island.
But these things exist in a weird space now, especially since former Love Island host Caroline Flack became the latest in a series of relatively high-profile suicides attached to the show. As it turns out, when you put a typically personal part of your life up for public consumption, it tends to erode your sense of privacy.
Singletown, then, has the awkward task of trying to drum up relationship drama while also being mindful of an increasingly sensitive climate and a frequently forgotten duty of care to its contestants, which in this case are five attractive young couples who have decided to put their relationships on hold to give the single life a go.
This isn’t an altogether alien concept in dating, but you don’t usually get to see your other half doing the experimenting, which of course is the case here. The ostensible point is to help these couples decide whether they’re better off together or apart, but the real point is to entertain an audience who gets something out of twenty-something relationship drama. And Singletown has plenty of that.
So, the couples move into one of two swanky London apartment complexes – dubbed “Cityside” and “Riverside” – and prepare to mingle, helped along by hosts Joel Dommett and Emily Atack, playing matchmakers. Naturally, everyone’s in uncomfortably close proximity to their exes and any new romance will only be happening in full view of the other party. So it goes.
Shows like Singletown live and die on the personalities of their contestants rather than their seen-before premises, but the line-up of floundering twosomes here isn’t really anything to write home about. The uniformity of their ages, despite some more progressive couplings, can’t help but give a samey vibe to most involved, and it’s difficult to buy into their various plights. It only seems right that a young couple with a bit of an age gap would want different things from a relationship.
It’s all about the drama, then, but isn’t it always? Singletown, even on a new platform, feels like it’s too familiar to make an impact, and probably won’t. But fans of the genre or the concept will find something worth looking at, if only for a while, though whether they’re good for each other is anyone’s guess.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.