If you enjoy hearing straight white people talking about their relationship dilemnas, watching conventionally average men somehow attracting ‘flawless’ women, or you can appreciate such worryingly poor quality camerawork that you have reason to believe it may have been pulled straight from someone’s webcam, then oh boy, is Netflix’s Back With the Ex the show for you.
On the other hand, if any of those things are ringing alarm bells, you’re definitely right and also should probably avoid this show. The premise is this: four former couples attempt, through three weeks of challenges, to rekindle their romance. At the end of this process they have to decide whether to stay together or to break up. That’s it. No cash prize, no spin-off show – really no reason at all that any of these people have to go through this, often traumatic and bitter process, in front of cameras.
Once someone in the show has lured their former partner back they simply continue to go on dates until they reach the off-chance that they fall back in love. This seems to be less of a TV format, and more of how real life works. Except that it’s not how real life works. In reality, nobody enables you to get back with an ex-partner. Especially not in scenarios when these partners, like some of those that feature in this show, have been manipulative, unfaithful, controlling, derogatory, sexist, or ignorant enough to think they can demand you get cosmetic surgery. Only one of these couples – middle-aged and separated by circumstance instead of anyone’s actions – should be getting back together. Some of the remaining couples might need restraining orders.
This isn’t a show about love, or whether a couple is able to work out their issues. It’s a show about whether they can work out their issues while on holiday, whether they can stay together through the horrific issue of whose totally comped hotel room to stay in at night. It’s not a show about love, because loving someone means wanting them to be happy even if it hurts your pride. It’s not a show about love, because love knows no gender or race or differences in physical ability, and this show only really knows anything about white-straight-able-bodied-ness. It’s not a show about love, because no one would seriously think doing half-naked press-ups in a hallway just in case their ex might see was a real, earth-shattering expression of devotion. If you want trashy TV, the first four seasons of Love Island are still available on Netflix. At least it has the good decency of being well-filmed and plotted, of having some idea of what the hell it is. If we were meant to be getting back with our exes, Dua Lipa wouldn’t have a career.
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