Down for Love

A reality TV dating show starring people with Down syndrome, Down for Love, hits the U.S. Aug. 11 on Netflix. The show, which first aired last year in New Zealand, is the streamer’s second dating show matching up people with disabilities.

Down for Love follows 10 people looking for love or at least a good date. Their matches all have an intellectual disability, “but not necessarily Down syndrome,” series producer Robyn Paterson said in an interview.  For some contestants, it’s their first date ever, she said.

Down Under has cornered the market on reality TV disability dating shows. Rather, it is the market. Love on the Spectrum, a show that first aired in the U.S. on ABC and then for three seasons, so far, on Netflix, was created in Australia by Cian O’Clery and produced by Australia’s Northern Pictures. Its first two seasons featured adults with autism from Australia, and its third, from the U.S.

Love on the Spectrum U.S. won three Emmy awards in 2022: Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program, Outstanding Picture Editing for Unstructured Reality Program and Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program. (Watch a panel with O’Cleary below.)

Its positive reception is good news. However, not everyone was fully onboard. A good summary of Love on the Spectrum critiques can be found in a review in Spectrum News written by Sara Luterman, a reporter with autism.

The show’s problems, she wrote, include a lack of representation (mostly everyone is white and straight), inaccurate or misleading autism facts and how it’s” frequently infantilizing.” Overall, though, she noted, it’s kind, and there are “heartwarming” moments.

Down for Love is produced by Attitude Pictures, which calls itself the largest producer of disability-focused content in the world. The production worked in consultation with the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association (NZDSA) in part to help ensure it remained respectful of its contestants and their needs.

“At heart [the show is] about diversity and love,” series creator and producer Paterson said in the same interview,  “People with Down syndrome need to be treated and respected equally. Our search for love is universal – no matter who we are.”

Photo: Unsplash

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