"Love Is Blind" promised a live reunion, only to stand us up. So, what did we learn?

As fans left waiting for streaming service's second live event noted, “This should not happen. This is avoidable"

By Melanie McFarland

Senior Critic

Published April 17, 2023 7:34PM (EDT)

Brett in episode 402 of "Love is Blind." (Courtesy of Netflix)
Brett in episode 402 of "Love is Blind." (Courtesy of Netflix)

You assembled your snacks. You poured your favorite beverage, maybe into an opaque golden goblet so nobody can tell what you were drinking or how much. You snuggled into your coziest throw. All Netflix had to do was show up at 5 p.m. PST/ 8 p.m. EST on Sunday, as promised, with its live stream of the "Love Is Blind" reunion.

Instead, Netflix appeared to be napping, reminiscent of Season 4 favorite Tiffany Pennywell nodding off during a date with her future husband Brett Brown. Only Netflix's move had none of that instant's adorableness. Tiffany and Brett's date was already in progress when she blinked out to Sleepytown, whereas our "Love Is Blind" in-the-moment reunion hookup never materialized.

The failure of Netflix's second live event may hold a few lessons for the service and possibly the industry at large.

Instead, upon the appointed hour, viewers were left staring at a spinning wheel to nowhere and fielding empty promises. "It's almost time! The live event will start soon," fibbed a card keeping eager viewers on hold. "Love is . . . late," the streamer's official Twitter account posted at 8:02 p.m. ET in a tweet that has since been deleted, probably because of the next line: "#LoveIsBlindLIVE will be on in 15 minutes!"

That was a lie. A lie! A full one hour and 30 minutes after it was supposed to begin, Netflix tweeted its apology to the untold millions it stood up.

"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," the official account posted. "We're filming it now and we'll have it on Netflix as soon as humanly possible. Again, thank you and sorry."

That's nice. Know what's always on time though? Salty live tweeters, Tik Tokkers and the angry Instagram hive.

Social media put a fork in any hopes of watching live that night long before Netflix let us know it's not us, it's them. It only took 20 minutes for the service to be thoroughly seasoned and roasted through an assortment of memes and from every angle.

In many respects, the Twitter nonsense exceeded any entertainment value the live experience could have served. Clever usage of screen captures from Season 4 abounded, including stills of Brett fuming "This should not happen. This is avoidable":

"Queer Eye" host Karamo Brown commiserated with the jilted, as did Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.-NY) when she chimed in with, "Someone call Lucia the seamstress to fix this. I believe in her," referring to the woman who fixed the fit Brett's trousers 90 minutes before he was scheduled to walk down the aisle.

Social media accounts from rivals Peacock and Hulu rolled with sugary schadenfreude, with the latter simply tweeting a still of "Little Fires Everywhere " star Kerry Washington smirking with a, "Hmm."

Paramount+ adopted a more conciliatory approach, although it could have been wishing Netflix well in the Gwyneth Paltrow sense. "Love may be blind but we SEE you, @netflix social team," it posted. "Pouring one out for your mentions tonight."

Perhaps best of all came from the tag team of America's dearest departed video rental company and a DVD rental chain. "Remember renting vhs' from us. You could start it on time no problem . . . This is what we get," tweeted the "official" Blockbuster account, to which Redbox responded, "solidarity, bro."

HBO Max's official account was silent, choosing instead to rest on the BDE that is "Succession" and "Barry," the shows folks clicked on when it was clear Netflix wasn't going to get it up in time to deliver the Sunday satisfaction we crave.

Love is BlindNick Lachey, Vanessa Lachey at Sunset Bronson Studios for the Love is Blind season 4 reunion. (Adam Rose/Netflix)

The failure of Netflix's second live event after its highly promoted debut of "Chris Rock: Selective Outrage" on March 4 may hold a few lessons for the service and possibly the industry at large.

The greatest may be the moral of the story that the company learned in real time, and in front of legions of unhappy subscribers: pulling off a live event broadcast is harder than it looks. (Hopefully they'll figure out in time for next year's Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony which, if Netflix pulls it off, will make it the the first streamer to host a major awards show.)

Broadcasting executives who watched Netflix faceplant called that out with no shortage of glee on social media since every sort of glitch that can happen in live telecasts has happened to one of them. 

Netflix assumes a more challenging task by entering the live streaming space, in that broadcast airwaves can handle tens of millions of people tuning into awards shows, sportscasts and other live specials without a problem. Internet-based streamers, on the other hand, must account for bandwidth.

The viewership for "Love Is Blind," hosted by husband-and-wife team Nick and Vanessa Lachey, doesn't come close to that of the Oscars or the Super Bowl, but it is significant. According to data from Nielsen, it was the eighth most popular original streaming series in 2022 with 13.1 billion minutes streamed that year. ("The Crown" came in 10th place.)

Even if the series did manage to "break the Internet" as Vanessa Lachey joked in an Instagram video that has since disappeared, we don't have official confirmation that a lack of adequate bandwidth is the culprit. Salon reached out to Netflix asking for clarification as to the nature of the technical issues that prevented the reunion from streaming live. As of the time of this article's publication, we have not received a response.

So the bandwidth theory, for the time being, remains just that.

Love is BlindBrandie, Bliss, Irina, Kacia, Micah in season 4 of "Love is Blind." (Monty Brinton/Netflix)

That said, another way this may prove to be a teachable experience is that its lack of transparency isn't helping or earning the company much grace or trust from its subscribers. The taped special finally dropped shortly after noon PT on Monday. We still don't know why it took so long to appear. (Some were able to watch on Sunday, but only if they camped out on the stream's limbo until the engineers got it together.)

It could also be the case that the service didn't account for the disparate circumstances of Rock's special and this reunion special. The audiences are unalike, for one. Then there's the sense of urgency and unpredictability linked to the "Love Is Blind" reunion that would not be there for a comedy special.

The news value of Rock's special is limited since most people knew how he felt about being slapped by Will Smith on live TV, leaving the sole allure in how he decided to express those feelings. In contrast, social media has spoiled "Love Is Blind" outcomes as the series became more popular.

Consider the third season's culmination of Sikiru "SK" Alagbada choosing not to marry Raven Ross, only for the pair to announce they were dating in that season's reunion, which dropped the same day we witnessed SK announce, "I . . . do not." Not long after that debuted the news broke that SK had cheated on Raven, entirely spoiling their arc on the "After the Altar" postscript episodes that arrived months later.

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Somewhat perversely, the good-natured frenzy surrounding this epic fail can be viewed as evidence of its romance reality flagship's success. The fourth edition of "Love Is Blind" was a fortunate courtship of perfect circumstances. It gave us charismatic participants, including viral villains in the show's "mean girl" duo Micah Lussier and Irina Solomonova.

It saw previously unknown success with its "experiment," with more couples saying "I do" and staying together than in any other season. Viewers also witnessed King of the Nice Guys Marshall Glaze get kicked to the curb by his fiancé-for-a-hot-minute Jackelina Bonds, who chose Marshall's aggro rival Josh Demas instead.

Love is BlindMicah, Irina in episode 404 of "Love is Blind." (Courtesy of Netflix)

In another unprecedented turn, one participant, Zack Goytowski, broke off his engagement with Irina to court the woman he didn't initially choose, Bliss Poureetezadi. And this produced a tension that hadn't been experienced in past seasons, in that many viewers (and a few contestants) felt that Bliss had dodged a bullet when Zack broke things off with him in the hallowed "pods."

This brings us to the final points in the favor of the fourth "Love Is Blind." It features more Black men in relationships that made it through to the end of the season or close enough, than in the first three.

It has one couple everyone is rooting for in Tiffany and Brent that's also the show's first pair of Black folks brought to the altar by the show. And it features a duo many rooted against in Zack and Bliss – popular opinion is that Bliss can do much better than Zack. (To his credit, he seems to know it.)

Of course, most of us aren't into "Love Is Blind" because we believe that the title's proposal is true. We come for the mess. Just not this kind of mess.

All episodes of "Love Is Blind," including the Season 4 reunion, are streaming on Netflix.


By Melanie McFarland

Melanie McFarland is Salon's award-winning senior culture critic. Follow her on Twitter: @McTelevision

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