Netflix canceled its live portion of the reunion episode “Love is Blind” on Sunday. It was the second time Netflix had attempted to broadcast something live while streaming platforms were trying to win over viewers.
JUANA SUMMERS, HOSTS:
It was supposed to be a huge event that should definitely be seen. Netflix had hyped the reunion episode “Love Is Blind”. It was supposed to start Sunday night primetime, live on Netflix, but…
(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: OK, so it still doesn’t work.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Is ‘Love Is Blind’ Reunion Delayed? Anyone else with me? How…
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Do you think someone got into an argument?
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: All the money I paid Netflix. All the streamers and people they have and that’s what we get, right? To the right.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: I spent three hours getting this episode to load. Why weren’t you prepared?
SUMMERS: This wasn’t the kind of drama that fans were expecting. Instead of a replay of the ups and downs of the season and interesting updates from the lives of the contestants, viewers were presented with error messages and loading screens. The show’s co-hosts Nick and Vanessa Lachey tuned in live on Instagram.
(SOUND BITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
VANESSA LACHEY: Don’t change the channel. Don’t stream anything else. Don’t go to the toilet.
NICK LACHEY: We’re coming for you.
V LACHEY: We’re coming for you. Stay here.
N LACHEY: See you soon.
V LACHEY: See you soon.
SUMMERS: To be clear, the fans didn’t see them that quickly. Netflix dropped the live portion of the episode and instead taped the show and released it yesterday. It was only the second time Netflix has attempted to air something live — a tactic used to win viewers over while streaming platforms compete for attention.
To understand all this drama we will start our group chat. We have Aisha Harris from our Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast and NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Hello everyone.
AISHA HARRIS, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: I have to admit, I don’t think I can understand this, but I’ll try.
SUMMER: All right. So Aisha, I guess we’ll start here with you. You will be our professor – our guide through the world of Love Is Blind. First, could you take us to Sunday night? Why did Netflix choose this particular event for a live stream?
HARRIS: Well, that’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? — because Netflix is the one that kind of screwed up this idea of doing things live. And you know, we’re going to tune in every single episode at the same time for you to enjoy. And so it seems like they’re sort of realizing now that there’s still such a thing as schedule TV. You can see people still tune in to watch shows every week – weekly shows like Success. It seemed like a great idea to them, but it seemed like maybe the technology wasn’t quite mature or just couldn’t handle the amount of people wanting to try it.
SUMMER: Yes. And I mean, at this point, do we even know what went wrong and caused the live episode “Love Is Blind” to kind of go off the rails?
HARRIS: I don’t realize that. Eric, I don’t know anything about you.
DEGGANS: Yeah, we don’t know. We don’t know what went wrong. And I’m amazed that people are surprised that there are problems with the streamer, because HBO Max in particular has always had problems with its technology and it often glitches when something really popular shows up on the site. I think part of that is the streaming age, you know? When a platform tries a new technology, sometimes it doesn’t work.
SUMMERS: I mean, this all raises a question for me about the genre of reality TV, which I watch a lot. And when I first heard that Netflix was going to be hosting a live reunion event for “Love Is Blind,” I was kind of surprised and wondered if a live event would actually work for a reality show, because reality TV is successful because of the editing. I mean, the most exciting, conflicted and piquant moments get the spotlight. They come from hours of footage. So do you all think this format works?
HARRIS: Yes. I mean, Andy Cohen, who’s been doing reunion specials for The Real Housewives for years, actually responded to the Netflix fiasco. And he basically said, you know, we just did a live reunion special. And on your point, Juana, you want the edited version. You want the part where we’re just getting to the actual conflict. And if you don’t have one – especially in the form of Nick Lachey and Vanessa Lachey – I’m sorry but they’re not the best at hosting or moderating…
DEGGANS: Really (laughter)?
HARRIS: Yes. And when you allow them to banter unfiltered and unedited, it just becomes an arduous experience. I don’t think it took us a full 90 minutes. We could have shortened this to a short hour and it would have been fine.
DEGGANS: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. If you’re going to do something like this live, you need better hosts who know how to handle the moments of the moment. But what’s interesting to me about all of this is that there’s a real need among TV audiences for schedule viewing. You know, a lot of people said they kind of gave up waiting for the Love Is Blind reunion to watch Succession. You know, there’s a need out there in the audience. There is a desire for a kind of appointment television. When a show really engages people, they want to see it when it’s available immediately because they don’t want to be spoiled and want to get the experience as soon as possible.
SUMMERS: So I’m curious – I mean, you’ve both brought up this idea of schedule TV, schedule watching – this idea that we’re all gathering around the TV or whatever, in the same place, at the same time, around the same thing to watch . Do you think any of the streaming platforms have managed to bring about a return to this?
DEGGANS: Well, I would say Amazon has done a pretty good job on sporting events. There were minor issues when they first started, but it seems like they’ve really got the hang of it now. YouTube TV also did a great job in my opinion. And some streaming services have taken to using YouTube TV to stream live events, something Netflix should have thought of as well.
HARRIS: Yes. I mean, YouTube – yes, Hulu is the same. I use Hulu to watch a lot of live shows, including stuff like the Oscars. It still feels like the Wild West in a way when it comes to schedule TV because you’re working with so many different options now — not just cable, but different platforms, and then making sure your audience knows which ones platform on which these things will be.
SUMMERS: We’ve talked a lot about the ecosystem that this episode existed in and all the things that went wrong trying to livestream the show. But the big question – the reunion itself – did it bring to fans who sat in front of their screens and waited hours for it to show up?
HARRIS: (Laughter) I mean, I’m a hardcore fan who feels over the top.
HARRIS: But I’ve seen every episode and watch them almost as soon as they become available. I think there were definitely some moments in this live/non-live format that played out in interesting ways, especially when it came to this season’s “villains”, including Irina. Vanessa Lachey has repeatedly defended Love Is Blind’s producers for things that were a little — if not downright unethical — just kind of revealing the strings being pulled behind the scenes, perhaps also manipulating time in the way things play out in reality versus the way we see them on the show.
DEGGANS: (gasp) They did that? Really?
HARRIS: I know. I know. So I think it worked. But again, it was 90 minutes long, and it didn’t have to be.
DEGGANS: To me, it feels like every generation needs some kind of “reality dating show” that speaks to them. And watching that, I just remembered the specials I used to watch on The Bachelor, seriously, 15 years ago, you know? It’s like – it’s the same script. It’s the same reactions. “The Bachelor” has been around for a long time. You know, Love Is Blind is coming out for a newer generation now. But a lot of what they did is what these other shows have been doing for 20 years.
SUMMERS: Eric, I’ll make sure they have your number if they’re looking for someone to host the next Love Is Blind reunion.
DEGGANS: My price is going to be really high.
DEGGANS: That’s all I have to say.
(SOUNDBITE OF 98 DEGREES SONG, “DO YOU WANNA DANCE”)
SOMMER: Meet NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans and Aisha Harris, co-host of our Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. Thank you both.
HARRIS: Thank you.
DEGGANS: Thank you. That was a pleasure.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “DO YOU WANNA DANCE”)
98 DEGREE: (singing) Ooh, come on baby.
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