HOOKING UP, a new documentary reality series from ABC News, goes inside the unpredictable world of online dating in a five-part series that premieres Thursday, July 14 at 9:00 p.m., ET.
The internet continues to transform both our lives and our notions of community in ways most of us never anticipated. Some Americans spend more time interacting with online strangers than they do with friends or family, often keeping their cyber life a secret. But for those who date online, turning someone who exists only as text and a jpeg file into real flesh-and-blood is a mission that holds both potential risk and reward. When romantic relationships do form and sometimes go bad, the end can come abruptly as a "Dear John" line of text, reinforcing the cold calculus of a system in which people literally shop online for a mate.
Once stigmatized as the last resort of desperate souls and lonely hearts, today internet dating services are a billion-dollar industry used by an estimated 40 million Americans. HOOKING UP a new five-part documentary reality series from the producers of the award-winning ABC News series HOPKINS 24/7, BOSTON 24/7 and NYPD 24/7, takes an intimate look at the sometimes bewildering, often hilarious, and occasionally frightening world of online dating. Like the 24/7 series, HOOKING UP puts a particular aspect of our culture under a microscope, focusing in this case on the yearnings, trials and tribulations of 12 Manhattan women. Their experiences - the connections, the rejections, the dating disasters - are a reminder that, for better or worse, every date is an adventure into uncharted territory.
The charismatic women in HOOKING UP - ranging in age from 25 to 38 - explode the myth that online dating is for losers. Included in their ranks are a gynecologist, a hair stylist, a yoga instructor, a realtor and an opera-singer. Most speak anxiously about their biological clocks and the difficulty of finding Mr. Right in a city where beautiful women abound. They all say they believe the deck is stacked in favor of men. So they surf the internet hoping to meet a stranger who will turn out to be the most important date of their lives. Yet their dating strategies couldn´t be more different. Lisa, the doctor, initially conceals her name and occupation from potential suitors, because, she says, "if they know you´re a doctor... they´ll bring the engagement ring to the first date." Amy, the real estate broker, doesn´t hesitate to tell dates that she´s looking for a husband and the eventual father of her children. Reisha, a technology consultant, is determined that the next man she kisses will be the one she weds.
In theory the chance to screen a prospective date for compatibility, income and even basic literacy before meeting him allows reason to trump instant physical attraction. But if online suitors conceal their true motives and provide phony personal information, the fallout can be severe. After a sumptuous dinner, Sonja, owner of a health food store, discovers that her charming date refuses to keep his hands to himself once they reach his lavishly appointed penthouse. Most ill-fated encounters are more benign. When Cynthia, the hair stylist, realizes her date has misled her about his appearance, she bails out on dinner before the main course arrives. Another man literally finds his dinner finger-licking good, much to the chagrin of his date.
For every dud, there are also plenty of knights in shining armor. Yet chivalry doesn´t guarantee success, and it may be mystifying to observers why certain men don´t make the cut.
From the first online "wink" to meeting prospective in-laws, HOOKING UP offers an unvarnished look at the rewards and pitfalls of 21st Century romance. If an infinite supply of bachelors is the upside to internet dating, sorting through them requires a decidedly unromantic, mercenary approach. But for those who persevere, the hope that they´ll meet their soul-mate makes it all worthwhile.