'Love Is Quarantine' is the reality dating show the world needs right now
Like many others during this time of coronavirus, roommates Thi Q. Lam and Rance Nix have been trying to practice social distancing, staying inside their Brooklyn apartment and staying at least six feet away from others.
And like many other avid Netflix users, they also binge-watched "Love Is Blind," getting hooked on the reality series that wondered aloud what might happen when Atlanta millennials go on blind dates that really were blind - with the singles unable to see each other until they get engaged.
So when the novel coronavirus reached New York, leaving Lam and Nix out of work, they decided on an irreverent idea to fill their time: adapting the reality show for the covid-19 world.
"Everyone's in their house, really bored, they're out of work, out of a job, really sad," Lam, a 27-year-old content producer, told The Washington Post. "People are looking for happiness however they can get it."
Quarantined America is paying attention. The duo's ragtag adaptation of the Netflix production, aptly dubbed "Love Is Quarantine," has amassed thousands of Instagram followers in less than 48 hours, feeding into the need for a distraction from the virus and the newly imposed realities of dating during a pandemic.
The early episodes of Netflix's "Love Is Blind" were centered around "pods," the isolated, windowless rooms where couples were left to open up - and in some cases, eventually propose - while separated by an opaque, shimmery blue door.
After the series was released earlier this year, it sparked deep philosophical debates on the internet: How might an emotional connection sparked in the pods clash with physical and societal realities? Would differences in race and age cause couples to break up in real life? Perhaps most important, should dogs drink wine?
Fast forward a few weeks, and the "pods" have become an oddly prescient harbinger of current times: Common date spots are shut down under government orders, singles are mostly trapped at home, cut off from seeing any would-be romantic interests.
Perhaps that's what has made "Love Is Quarantine" so popular.
Earlier this week, Lam and Nix created a sign-up form that quickly spread online, as a list of contestants came tumbling in: Musicians in Nashville. Beauty influencers in Los Angeles. Even a Broadway actor from "Dear Evan Hansen."
Each so-called "season" lasts for just one night, broadcast on Instagram. In the past few days, a cult following has logged on to watch as vetted participants are paired up in "pods" on a spreadsheet.
"You get the opportunity to meet someone without being judged," said Nix, a 28-year-old actor. "It's cool to see how people are cool with meeting others without actually seeing them."
Once the matches are made, Nix and Lam introduce the couples in a group text, offering up a prompt to get things rolling. The daters are encouraged to talk over the phone and emotionally connect over their respective quarantines.
Before and after each date, participants film a faceless video that's later blasted out on Instagram. There's also a comment board, where viewers can openly gossip and gab about the couples.
While the real "Love Is Blind" featured only heterosexual couples, "Love Is Quarantine" is open to people of any sexual orientation to sign up. So far, the show has only produced one queer match - a pair of men who decided they might be better as friends. But they're working on it.
For Nix, who has achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, the production had a personal appeal.
"I'm 4-6 and attracted to girls that are taller than me, and that can be difficult when they're used to dating people who are 6-4," Nix said. "You get the opportunity to meet someone without being judged, and there's a lesson learned for me to be open to people who aren't necessarily my type."
That can create unexpected results. The Netflix show's creators only expected the pod experiment to result in one or two engaged couples. Instead, it created eight.
"Just like the producers didn't know what this show was going to turn into," Lam said, "we didn't know what this would turn into."
Given their booming popularity, the roommates are hoping to sell merchandise and donate proceeds to charity. For now, though they are merely trying to stay busy and create something fun for people to enjoy, adapting a professional Netflix production on a much tighter budget.
"We're just two guys on the internet," Lam said.
Nix cut him off: "Two single guys," he clarified.The Washington Post