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‘Love is Blind’ live reunion turns into a debacle for Netflix

Millions of viewers tuned in to Netflix on Sunday night to watch the "Love is Blind" Season 4 reunion special, which was delayed more than 90 minutes because of unspecified technical difficulties. (Adam Rose/Netflix/TNS)

Love may be blind.

Apparently, it also struggles with technical difficulties.

Millions of viewers tuned in to Netflix on Sunday night ready to watch the Season 4 reunion of “Love Is Blind,” which was supposed to air live for the first time. For fans of the compulsively watchable reality dating show — which just wrapped what may be its messiest installment to date — it was a can’t-miss opportunity to do some real-time rubbernecking as hosts Nick and Vanessa Lachey grilled the contestants about their relationships.

Instead, the heavily promoted special turned into a humiliating debacle for the streaming service, which was forced to delay the broadcast for more than 90 minutes because of unspecified technical difficulties and was then scrapped entirely in favor of a taped special that Netflix made available to subscribers on Monday at 3 p.m. ET.

Viewers who’d logged on to Netflix at 8 p.m. ET sharp, expecting to watch this season’s super couple, Tiffany Pennywell and Brett Brown, gaze adoringly at each other for an hour, were instead met with a hold screen that read, “It’s almost time! The live event will start soon” and played over a continuous loop of hold music, like an awkward throwback to those “please stand by — technical difficulties” screens from the analog TV era.

A few minutes after the scheduled start time, Netflix tweeted that there would be a 15-minute delay.

But fans continued to wait … and wait … and wait, with no sign of life from Netflix. As their golden goblets of rose warmed to room temperature, many exasperated viewers took to social media to voice their frustration. The “Love Is Blind” Instagram account, which was live for more than an hour, became a particularly lively venue for ridicule, where users repeatedly suggested that maybe cable TV wasn’t so bad after all and speculated that Shelby, the strangely spiteful best friend of contestant Micah Lussier, had sabotaged the broadcast.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — her finger on the pulse of pop culture as always — also weighed in on Twitter. “Someone call Lucia the seamstress to fix this. I believe in her,” she said, a reference to the delightful woman who provided a dramatic last-minute adjustment to a cast member’s wedding pants in the season finale. Other companies weighed in, including rivals like Blockbuster and Hulu.

Nearly 90 minutes after the special was supposed to begin, Netflix finally issued an apology over Twitter: “To everyone who stayed up late, woke up early, gave up their Sunday afternoon… we are incredibly sorry that the Love is Blind Live Reunion did not turn out as we had planned. We’re filming it now and we’ll have it on Netflix as soon as humanly possible. Again, thank you and sorry.”

By then, many viewers had abandoned hopes of watching the reunion live and some had switched over to HBO for “Succession.” Others were somehow able to watch the reunion as it was being recorded, sharing snippets online, with some users streaming it on Twitch, TikTok and other platforms. Some viewers also reported other technical glitches, including a hot mic in the control room.

It’s unclear what, exactly, went wrong behind the scenes to hamper the broadcast so disastrously. Perhaps Nick Lachey tripped on a cord, or maybe the camera operator fell asleep on the sofa while having a heart-to-heart conversation with Brett. Whatever the case may be, Netflix declined to offer details about the mishap.

But the “Love Is Blind” snafu marks an embarrassing hiccup for the streamer as it dabbles in live programming — a format that certainly poses unique challenges but has also been a staple of TV since, well, it has existed. Last month, Netflix aired “Selective Outrage,” a live comedy special from Chris Rock, that went off mostly without a hitch (the only obvious error was when Rock mixed up the name of the Will Smith movie “Concussion.”)

Netflix pioneered the binge-release model when it ventured into original programming nearly a decade ago, but it has also started to experiment with weekly and batched releases, a tacit acknowledgment that old-fashioned habits are useful when trying to build word of mouth around a TV show. The live reunion — with was preceded by a countdown on social media and featured a red carpet and an audience full of returning stars from previous seasons — was another attempt by Netflix to make an event out of its programming and turn a show you’d otherwise put on in the background while folding laundry into a real-time, collective viewing experience.

In an indication of its ambitions, the streamer even scheduled the reunion for a plum time slot on Sunday night, which has been synonymous with appointment TV for more than two decades thanks to shows on rivals like HBO and AMC. Netflix learned the hard way that, while live reality TV may be great for generating conversation, it can also turn into the the wrong kind of train wreck.

And for now, at least, it may be time to invest in a better screensaver.


© 2023 Los Angeles Times

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