I have a confession to make. My guilty pleasure more than anything else in the world is watching reality TV. I love The Kardashians, Survivor, and Love is Blind. Also really cheesy pointless ones like Too Hot to Handle and The Floor is Lava. If there are good producers and editors who know how to sort through hundreds of hours of footage and somehow create a compelling story, it’s either like a car crash you can’t look away from or really heartwarming and charming virtual friends that you’d love to be your besties in real life.
Jewish Matchmaking falls somewhere in the middle. There are definite super cringe moments but also really nice encounters as well. The star of the show, Aleeza Ben Shalom, is undeniably media material. She knows how to talk to the cameras and comes off as extremely compassionate and genuine. She never says anything negative about any of the candidates and instead says “there are also other factors.” She is a matchmaker after all, and one of the most essential characteristics of a matchmaker is knowing how to reframe otherwise problematic traits as something positive.
The candidates do come across as sincere adults who are looking for a serious marriage minded relationship. They mostly have a noticeably international flavor with very diverse backgrounds. There’s the Floridian with the Cuban and Turkish background, a proud black Jew from Kansas, and the Italian son of diplomats, to name just a few. They’re just regular NJBs and NJGs who are looking for love. What makes this show different from other dating shows is that Judaism is the defining factor and every candidate has to explicitly state their level of Jewish observance and what level they’re looking for in their partner. Shabbat, kosher, and daily prayers are all factored in so that Aleeza can work her magic and find a suitable partner.
Most of the time Aleeza gets it right – she can pinpoint what the candidates needs are more than the candidate himself. She takes copious notes but also uses her gut instinct to make matches that seem to be really great fits. From the first date the viewer can sense whether there’s chemistry or if it’s a disastrous blind date. It’s frustrating when there’s a clear emotional bond that’s formed but because of outward appearances or other trivial factors the candidates don’t proceed to the next stage of commitment.
After binge watching all eight episodes in one day (I’m probably not supposed to admit that out loud), I can say that I was pleasantly surprised. It came out as authentic with multi-dimensional characters who, like everyone else in the world, are looking for true everlasting love. I was disappointed that the series didn’t end with at least one of the characters breaking the glass under the chuppah or drinking wine and accepting the ketubah. But like Aleeza believes, every single person has a match and it’s only a matter of time until the two souls connect so I guess I just need to wait for the epilogue……….or Season Two……………please, please, keep us updated.