Whether or not you think the genre is ridiculous, the dating reality show will always have its place on television. Among the classics like the Bachelor franchise, imports like Love Island, and streaming-age shows like Love Is Blind and Too Hot to Handle, there are a lot of different takes on the whole “I’m tired of dating, just let me speedrun a relationship and get married” thing.
NBC’s latest player in the game of love is The Courtship, which I will lovingly describe as the meek lovechild of The Bachelorette and Bridgerton. The show follows Nicole Rémy as she is “courted” by sixteen men in the vein of Regency era matchmaking, and while the show as a whole is about what you would expect from something in its format, it does have some elements that make it unique.
Most importantly, the show manages to take care of the diversity issue that The Bachelor franchise has had such a hard time dealing with. Rémy herself is Black, and just under half of her suitors are people of color as well. While there is always more room for more non-white people in romantic reality shows (in truth, The Courtship is hardly clawing its way past the bare minimum) the standard set by The Bachelor and The Bachelorette is overwhelmingly white, even with how they’ve tried to course correct for the last 20 years of homogeny. The producers of The Courtship undoubtedly saw the downfall of Chris Harrison and decided that avoiding a situation similar to it was the best course of action. Starting the series off with a Black lead sets a precedent for any potential future seasons, and while it doesn’t mean that every lead would be Black, it means that there is a door open for any woman of color to be The Courtship’s object of affection.
Another unique feature of the show is the “Court” that is formed around Nicole, consisting of her parents (Claire and Claude), her sister (Danie), and her best friend (Tessa). They are there not only to support her, but to guide her towards the men that they think are best for her, and that’s something that is usually only displayed in one-off bits in reality shows like this. The majority of the time, the best judges of character are the people closest to you, and seeing Danie and Tessa be able to decide who is actually worth Nicole’s time is great. If one of the suitors acts like a fool in front of them, he doesn’t have a chance with Nicole, and that’s how it should be. Years of watching The Bachelorette have made me less and less tolerant to men BS-ing a woman who is just trying to find some semblance of happiness, so it’s really nice to see a barrier to the nonsense here.
The one place where The Courtship really does stumble is how the men are eliminated each week. At the end of the first episode, Nicole choses six of the suitors to dance with, and eliminates three of them as she sees fit. Not only is this style of elimination far less tense than the eliminations on other dating shows, it’s logistically messier. It becomes clear why romantic pairings choose yearning eye contact over conversation in those tense party scenes; It’s simply physically hard to speak to someone else while dancing. Especially with the flairs of Regency-era choreography, there are a lot of steps to remember and a lot of turning around that make it hard to get a sentence out before you have to face a different direction. Combined with the whispering (because they’re doing this in front of everyone) it’s just messy, and if the specific choreography was removed and replaced with something like a waltz, it would work a lot better.
Overall, The Courtship isn’t revolutionary, but if you’re into dating shows it’s definitely not something you should skip. The show has a lot of potential, and it gets to be a little campier than its counterparts simply because of the Regency element of the premise. Nicole Rémy is a delight, and the added element of her family brings something different to the show that you can’t really get anywhere else. At the end of the day, The Courtship is some light, harmless fun that can hold you over until the next season of Bridgerton drops—and that’s all it really needs to be.
The Courtship premieres March 6th at 8/7c on NBC, with new episodes airing every Sunday and steaming on Peacock the next day
Kathryn Porter is the TV Intern for Paste Magazine. You can find her @kaechops on Twitter
For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.