‘This could provide a more acceptable way into that TV community because of its authenticity’

Distributor Passion Distribution
Producer Ten66 Television
Length 8 x 60 minutes
Broadcaster BBC3 (UK)

Hosted by a dating show veteran – Love Island’s Zara McDermott – Love In The Flesh sends the hugely popular genre in a new direction from the classic formula of singletons fraternising on a sun-soaked island. 

Drawing on online dating, the series explores the growing trend of young people building romantic attachments to their online matches for weeks, months and even years before ever meeting up. Put simply, Love In The Flesh asks: can online chemistry translate to the real world?

The eight-part commission – one of the flagship orders for the newly returned linear BBC3 – delves into whether meaningful relationships can be cultivated via dating apps.

Bringing together six couples who have previously matched online but have not met in person, the series puts their relationships to the test by taking them on a first date in a Greek villa.

The couples then spend three weeks living together to develop their relationships, undertaking challenges that will test aspects of their union and discussing the differences in dating behaviour when there are no filters or screens to hide behind. 

If participants don’t like their original match, they can look elsewhere in the group. 

Produced by UK indie Ten66 Television, Love In The Flesh is exec produced by creative director and founder Rukhsana Mosam, alongside Andrew Robertson.

The show promises a big departure from what audiences have seen before and is an evolution of the dating format, says Nick Tanner, head of sales and co-production at Passion Distribution.

With cruelty on TV and producer interference under the spotlight and no longer cutting it with younger audiences, Tanner says, Love In The Flesh’s unfabricated set-up is a key differentiator.

“There is a much greater demand for a genuine and more authentic approach to this kind of entertainment,” he says. “It’s definitely different from other, far more constructed and produced shows of this nature.”

Passion head of acquisitions Seán Wheatley says the show’s motivation is a desire for the couples’ relationships to work, rather than creating as much drama as possible.

Diversity was also a key driver for producer Ten66, with the indie casting carefully for participants and relationships that “feel and look real”, according to Mosam. “As a female-led company, it was important that the images of women that are promoted are more natural than in a lot of other dating shows,” she says.

While dating is in demand from buyers globally, English-language markets are a “high priority” for Passion, with Tanner hoping the fresh take will cut through in territories where dating shows have become a “tired” part of the local TV landscape.

The show’s focus on relationship-building, rather than the aesthetic of scantily clad participants, makes it an attractive proposal for different markets, particularly those that are traditionally more conservative.

“This could provide a more acceptable way into that TV community because of its authenticity, and open up markets that are underserved by reality TV,” Tanner notes.