A new Netflix series is exploring the dating lives of young people with autism.
Each episode follows the 11 contestants as they go on dates, explore relationships and look for love. The premise is simple and intimate — one of the reasons the Los Angeles Times called it “TV’s most honest dating show.”
“We thought, why not represent these people in their best light, just like every other series does?” Cian O’Clery, the series’ creator, told the newspaper. “The fact that people have a disability or condition shouldn’t affect the way we represent them.”
Many reviews have agreed that O’Clery followed through on that promise. Writing for Time, Sarah Kurchak, a journalist and author with autism, said the show “presents a relatively benign and non-judgmental look at the romantic struggles and triumphs of a variety of different individuals on the spectrum.”
The stars of “Love in the Spectrum” are as diverse as the relationships they form. Some are new to dating, while others have been at it for a long time. Two couples had actually been dating for years before going on the show.
Episodes are around 40 minutes long and, generally, each focuses on two or three individuals looking for love. The show’s creators have said that this format helped each person shape the experience to fit their own wants and needs.
“A lot of dating shows often want a heightened experience of the fish out of water,” executive producer Karina Holden told the Los Angeles Times. “But for many of the young people who were part of the show, this was their very first experience of dating.”
“That in itself can be quite emotional,” she added. “The tension and the drama comes from them feeling comfortable enough to open up to another person or the audience, as opposed by being pressured by producers to create a certain emotion.”
There are very few shows that highlight the dating lives of people with disabilities, but still, “Love on the Spectrum” isn’t perfect. For example, Kurchak, the writer for Time, did criticize the series’ lack of diversity and a few nuances in the way it depicts its subjects.
“Would the close-ups on potentially eccentric clothing choices have happened if their subjects were neurotypical?” she asked.
Still, the show has been largely praised by critics, and has already been given a second season. Fans have been frantically searching to see what each contestant is up to now — and it seems like they’re definitely going to get some answers.
If you liked this story, check out In The Know’s profile on Drew Dees, the student journalist using his platform to advocate for people with disabilities.
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