At every instance where something dramatic occurs in Fairhope, I’m reminded of how easy it is for television to make things up. Hulu describes Love in Fairhope as “uniquely unscripted” (whatever that means) and uses the words “reimagined romance” to tell us what the five ladies of Fairhope, Alabama, will be experiencing in this nine-part series. Spoiler alert: The show ends on a huge cliffhanger, and I’m not quite sure where the romance went. There’s something so unsettling about the terrible (sometimes terrifying) acting and unrealistic dialogue between these people that it cannot in any way come across as “real.” Personally, the only reality TV shows I’ve ever watched are fashion or food competitions. Give me 100 Next in Fashion or Masterchef Australia before putting me through this again, I beg. Love in Fairhope almost looks like a 2000s Western fantasy romance, where a CGI unicorn may appear out of the blue, and the 20-something-year-old protagonist will have her whimsical romance dreams come true.
Following five women (of which I can clearly remember only three), this show is supposed to take a deep dive into their love lives for a whole year. There’s Abby, the 30-year-old who has a failed relationship with her mother and blames her for her missteps in relationships. Mya Jo, who is 21 and has just come out of college and returned to Fairhope for a break, has confusing feelings for her best friend, or is it the other way around? Then there’s LaShoundra, who is getting out of a marriage and finding it a little bit difficult. The two remaining ones who are barely in the series are Olivia and Claiborne.
Olivia is now in a relationship with a high school friend, Tori, and Claiborne is a widow who is lonely and wants to get back on the scene after a 54-year-long marriage. There’s no denying that these women have something about them that makes you want to watch them. They’re all beautiful and have exciting personalities, but it’s their choices in love that are bland and uninteresting. Okay, I do like movies where the protagonist is fundamentally flawed, like “Shiva Baby,” but to make the same mistakes a hundred times, in reality, is not so pleasant to watch. In fact, it’s rather infuriating. If it weren’t for writing this review, I would never have even considered watching Love in Fairhope because I know that this is a genre that has nothing to offer me. But to make things worse, it hasn’t helped change my mind; it’s made me much happier knowing I’m staying away.
The title of this article mentions that I’m a hater of reality TV, which may be a little bit of a stretch, but there’s something very icky about these shows for me personally. Having seen Love in Fairhope, I’m reminded of why I feel that way. As much as I tried to like the show and get invested in the many storylines of these 5 beautiful women, there was nothing the show did to make me root for any of their partners or say, “Yeah, they’re perfect together.” Isn’t that the point of such shows? The icing on the cake is the fact that there’s a fantastical Magnolia Ball that takes place in the small town of Fairhope, and the narrator makes it sound like everything in Fairhope is mag when it’s really not. If the show felt remotely realistic, the Gossip Girl-like narration paired with the parallel beginning and end of the show with the ball makes it seem almost absurd. The drama feels added-on and repetitive, and one problem gets dragged on through the whole season, only for us to come back right to the beginning. Is that what love is like in Fairhope?
It’s a bit strange that the show focuses so much more on Abby and Mya Jo than on the rest of the women, almost as if because they’re young and stunning, people will be more interested in their lives. If that were the case, why pretend to have the other women on board? In nine episodes, we barely get to learn anything about any of these women other than their mistakes, which is a big shame because it would’ve been more entertaining to know what they actually like to do with their lives, not just their “love” lives. Yes, I don’t need a reminder that it’s a dating show, but for people to date, don’t they have to get to know each other first? Similarly, if we need to get invested, wouldn’t we need to know what works for these people and what doesn’t? The show’s pacing is a bit strange; it feels like everything is moving extremely fast, and then we realize a year has passed. The timelines aren’t very clear, and there are a lot of jumps.
If you can’t tell already, I pretty much detested this show, and it’s a shame because it’s great to be open-minded (not just about dating, you know?). There are some scenes that made me downright uncomfortable with the camera angles and the weird ambiance. Psst, this show is also executive produced by Reese Witherspoon (RIP Sweet Home Alabama). According to the makers, there are intentional choices to make the show appear movie-like, even taking pages out of the executive producer’s book itself, but rather than coming across as unabashed, it gives second-hand embarrassment. While I’ve watched all nine episodes of the series, if you’re one who doesn’t fall prey to staged reality, I’d say skip this one for sure. Although it is refreshing to see none of the violence or strange “catfights” that the reality industry has been banking on, and I see the intention of making something different, it just didn’t work so well for me. I give Love in Fairhope 2 out of 5 stars, only for the 5 women, and brownie points for Claiborne’s cheerful personality.