Reality dating shows have been so focused on heterosexual relationships for so long that there's always some excitement when queer people finally get a chance to find love on television, whether they’re there for the right reasons or not. Back in 2007, MTV’s A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila was one of the first to break the mold, with the twist that the social media personality would be dating both women and men. More recently, we’ve seen Logo’s Finding Prince Charming, MTV’s Are You the One?: Come One, Come All, and Netflix’s The Ultimatum: Queer Love, all featuring queer millennials and seemingly tailormade for a similar demographic.
Paramount+’s new queer dating show Love Allways attempts to keep that trajectory going, but with Gen Z daters. Lexi Paloma (who was 19 at the time of filming) stars as the pansexual bachelorette, with 13 young men and women (ages ranging from 18 to 23) who all live in a house together while vying for her heart. It’s set up as a combination of a game show and a more traditional dating show like The Bachelorette, with competitions throughout that lead to group dates and one-on-ones, and an elimination ceremony during which Paloma uses a giant, copyright-safe Tinder-like page to “unmatch” whoever she wants to send home.
But there’s yet another twist: There are two relationship coaches, Spicy Mari and Anthony Recenello (both millennials, possibly on the “elder” end), who not only help Paloma make her decisions but also lead the group of contestants in the house through the ins and outs of dating. Those 13 daters are split into “Team Spicy” and “Team Anthony,” turning things into a competition akin to The Voice.
There’s so much happening that it’s difficult to parse the exact purpose of the show. Each episode jumps from Paloma’s search for love to scenes of the contestants in the house falling for each other while the noticeably older dating coaches dole out advice and argue for members of their team to stay in the game, even when it seems obvious that Paloma doesn’t have a connection with them. And because there’s no one clear perspective throughout, it makes it incredibly difficult to decipher who this show is for.
It becomes even more confusing when considering Paramount+’s typical audience — according to recent research, the average subscriber is 35 years old, and Paramount itself attributes middle America (aka, the often more conservative areas of the country) for the overwhelming success of Yellowstone. That doesn’t exactly sound like a crowd that's itching for programming based around teenagers — at the very least, they’re not the most obvious demo for a show about two adults trying their best to get teens and early twentysomethings to hook up. But while Love Allways may be a blatant attempt to appeal to the younger, more liberal viewers that the streamer currently isn’t reaching, it’s not enough to entice those groups to subscribe if they haven’t already.
In fact, seeing Gen Zers in these roles highlights just how outdated this approach to reality dating really is. By the end of the first episode, Paloma gets emotional thinking about how even though all these romantic prospects are supposedly there for her, they get to spend more time with each other in the house. Some of them realize that right away as well, wondering how they’re supposed to prove they’re there for “the right reasons” if they never get to spend any time with the person they’re supposedly going to date in the end, falling instead for their fellow housemates. Paloma quickly starts hanging around at the house more and more, turning the show into more of a next-generation version of The Real World than The Bachelorette. If it were promoted or designed to be that way to begin with, maybe there would be more appeal for the cast’s peers to tune in.
Many of these contestants, Paloma included, are also already extremely accessible on social media, where they produce content daily. They’re sharing every aspect of their lives, including who they’re dating, through TikTok and Instagram videos and posts, the platforms Gen Zers actually use. It’s through those platforms that these young people can choose to share as much or as little of their messy, young dating lives as they please, and where.
There’s no excuse for squeezing this new generation into a convoluted formula that feels designed to only create confusion, nor should they just be slotted into a template designed for previous generations. Gen Zers deserve their own version of the trashy millennial-focused reality shows that have dominated the unscripted sector for years, but Love Allways just isn’t it.
New episodes of Love Allways drop Fridays on Paramount+.
Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R.