This summer, it’s high tide on reality dating shows. FBoy Island is in full swing on HBO Max, The Bachelorette is back on ABC with *two* leads, and the babes of Love Island are already getting randy. Are you ready for another?
Enter Cosmic Love, a trailblazing experiment that premiered Monday on Amazon Prime and seeks to combine the bald sincerity of astrology with the sheer goofiness of the reality TV genre. The rules are both simple and engineered for maximum drama: Four leads, each representing one of the elements, date their way through a shared pool of singles in search of their perfect matches.
The “elements” must overcome their natural (bad) dating instincts to find their astrologically compatible matches. Then the real game begins: Once the elements have confirmed all their matches, they must eliminate those with whom they do not see a future. In the end, the elements will decide at the altar whether or not to marry their soulmate.
There’s just one catch: The contestants our four leads are dating can also (and certainly do) hook up with one another.
Some of our “elements” handle the chaotic setting better than others. Noel, the Pisces with a wandering eye, represents water—and in the six episodes made available for review, he seems to be having a great time. Phoebe, a fiery Leo who craves her matches’ focused attention, struggles a bit more. Representing earth is Maria, an emotional Capricorn who grew up watching Walter Mercado but struggles to trust the “Astro Chamber” (the mystical guide, voiced by Cree Summer, that supposedly shepherds the elements on their journeys). And Connor, a somewhat reclusive Gemini, needs to find a way to overcome his air-sign tendencies to feel more grounded.
As with most of these shows, the mess is by far the best part. As the season’s leads battle against singles in the house for attention, the Astro Chamber often treats these frustrations as challenges to be overcome. It can be fascinating to see how each element communicates with their various dating prospects, especially as they ostensibly try to overcome their usual instincts and habits.
Within this context, astrology becomes a useful tool for self-examination and reflection. More importantly, though, it’s endlessly funny to watch hot, bereft singles turn to a supposedly sentient orb for advice; it simply never gets old to watch someone sit down their group of matches for a town hall that begins with the words, “The Astro Chamber just told me...”
The activities on Cosmic Love range from the usual silly, often bikini-clad games (like painting each other’s bodies with colors representing various virtues) to emotionally intense exercises that ask contestants to dig deep. At one point, a contestant who normally serves as comic relief breaks down in tears while paying tribute to a cousin who died from COVID-19. As often happens in shows like this, some of the efforts feel sincere, while others land more awkwardly.
As intentionally goofy as Cosmic Love can be, a show like this was probably inevitable. Astrology apps have proliferated in recent years—“Are you a Costar person, or are you on The Pattern?”—and Tinder is replete with profiles featuring users’ “Big 3.” (For the uninitiated, those would be sun, moon, and rising signs.) Honestly, it’s a wonder it took this long for someone to spin the mainstreaming of astrology into a dating show.
On that note, this show’s real shortcoming is the one that plagues most of our reality dating content: It’s pitifully, woefully straight. Given the queer community’s embrace of astrology, the compulsory heterosexuality of Cosmic Love stands out even more. Similarly, it’s hard to understand why, like so many dating shows that claim to foster deeper connections, Cosmic Love seems to have been cast with a target BMI bracket in mind.
As for the astrology itself, the chart readings featured on Cosmic Love do not seem quite on par with, say, Indian Matchmaking in terms of intricacy. But astrology enthusiasts will be relieved to learn that the show does venture beyond the sun sign (useless on its own) to explore the group’s Big 3 signs, North and South Nodes, and more.
I’m guessing, however, that most viewers tuning into Cosmic Love are more passionate about the dating half of its equation; they’re probably not people who are, say, on the hunt for the latest Chani Nicholas book. If you’re looking for another source of reality-show mess, Cosmic Love might just be The One. But be warned: the stars are not for the faint of heart.