From Single’s Inferno to EXchange, to I Am Solo, to Love Catcher, Korean reality dating shows are all the buzz these days. Disney+, too, is catching up with the trend with an original show, Pink Lie

Pink Lie’s objective is the same as any other dating show: to successfully find a partner at the end. Its differentiation factor, however, is what catches many by surprise. The show explores the concept of unconditional love and explores whether love (or in this case, infatuation) truly has the power to overcome their differences. Given a chance to be their true self in the Pink House, each contestant, who goes by a pseudonym, hides a lie about themself. While some of their lies are more controversial than others, in general, they lie about their job, their upbringing, and their age–all important factors to take into account when considering one’s compatibility with a potential partner. 

Note: This review contains spoilers.

Like any reality show, there are rules to this game. Five male and five female contestants (Seo Ha-nui, Park Han-gyeol, Hong Ha-nu, Kang Da-hae, Mo Chan-sol, Han Ba-reum, Han Da-on, and later, Kang Tae-yang, Park Ha-neul, and Bae Seul-bi) reside in the Pink House together for 12 days. Under no circumstances are the participants, “Pink Mates”, allowed to divulge their real names for doing so may cause someone to search them up and stumble upon their lie, defeating the purpose of the show. Though every night, one Pink Mate is invited to the Room of Truth to learn of another’s lie. 

Aside from its intriguing concept, the show’s pacing is crucial for both viewers and contestants, especially so for the viewers to know the cast, and for the cast to be acquainted with one another. Over the 12 days, the Pink Mates are given adequate time to socialise, whether it is on a romantic or friendship basis. Given this, Pink Lie is a slow-paced show, despite featuring a relatively large cast. Although this is initially the show’s strength, this proves to be a problem once they grow closer to one another.

To spice things up, the Pink Moon rises anytime there is a mission, such as going on dates, ranking their partner options for an overnight trip, or sending an anonymous text to someone who has been on their mind at the end of the day. In other words, every time the Pink Moon rises, it offers the contestants an opportunity to figure each other out and confirm mutual or non-mutual feelings, often changing their dynamic with one another. 

As the Pink Mates take their time going on dates, Pink Lie‘s pacing initially works to its advantage. For instance, Chan-sol and Da-hae are each other’s picks from the beginning and have chosen one another whenever possible. Upon liking Da-hae, Chan-sol’s curiosity gets the best of him, quickly decides to find out about her lie: Da-hae has never held a job as she receives a monthly 15 million won allowance from her parents. 

With its slow pacing, on their subsequent dates, Chan-sol takes the opportunity to subtly verify their compatibility as he feels burdened by her high monthly spending. Carefully, he starts asking fundamental questions such as “What if I’m the oldest son in my family?”, “What if I’m not well off?”, “What if I have a child?”, and most importantly, “What do you think of marriage?”. Though despite their vastly different backgrounds, Chan-sol confesses that still likes Da-hae for who she is and continues to go on dates with her, much to the relief of viewers. In its favour, the slower pacing of the show enables somewhat “established” couples like Chan-sol and Da-hae to really consider each other’s compatibility.

When the penultimate Pink Moon rises, for instance, participants are given the opportunity to spend the night outside of the Pink House with the person they like, but only if they choose one another. Given this, it presents itself as their final opportunity to pursue the person they are interested in. Despite that, most candidates are unable to match up with their desired partner due to the nature of the rules, and Ha-nui and Han-gyeol, for example, a pair who has no feelings for one another, decided to turn it into a friend-date while making beer. 

For another Pink Moon mission where candidates are paired up at random by the production team or by Tae-yang, the last Pink Mate to be revealed, at times, romantic moments are paused. Put on a random date, Ba-reum who had eyes for Ha-nui, was paired up with Da-hae, similarly turning the date into a friend date, where he opened up about his confused feelings for Ha-nui. In its final episode, the last Pink Moon mission also tugged at heartstrings as the Pink Mates are encouraged to send a message to one another after the revelation of their lies in front of one another. This short but touching scene warms the viewers’ hearts as Ba-reum and Chan-sol shoot each other an encouraging message, showing a glimpse of bromance amidst the usual romance.

One important question, however, lingered in the back of my mind as the show went on: What are the lies? In the show’s opening, one of the biggest lies—Ha-nui’s former occupation as an adult actress—draws viewers in immediately.

As viewers expect equally shocking lies from the other Pink Mates’, things start to fall flat after watching an hour-long episode weekly with lies that fail to hold a candle to Ha-nui’s, Tae-yang’s, or Ha-neul’s lies: Tae-yang is an X-rated performer for women, and Ha-neul is a single mother. Seul-bi, for example, lies about her job as a freelance weather-caster, and Da-on lies about her job as a model and former F-ve Dolls member. In other words, showcasing Ha-nui’s lie in the opening seems to be a last-ditch effort to play their strongest card first. 

Eventually, its pacing backfires as every few episodes seem to present the same issues involving the same Pink Mates: Da-on’s love triangle with Ha-nu and Tae-yang, and later, Ha-neul’s love triangle with the same two men, and to a lesser extent, Ba-reum’s unrequited feelings for Seul-bi. Eventually, this leaves members like Ha-nui and Han-gyeol largely in the shadow.

As many have correctly noted, the production crew’s poor planning puts Ha-nui and Han-gyeol at the losing end. Ha-nui, who is used as “bait” in the show’s opening, is largely not shown as the show progresses to mainly focus on Tae-yang, Da-on, Ha-nu, and Ha-neul. Similarly, Han-gyeol, a 37-year-old pretending to be a 24-year-old, breaks the show’s own rules by announcing this in front of everyone in episode nine of twelve, giving him little time to pursue the person he likes. The fact that he acknowledges that he is often a passive and slow person does not help him either. 

Overall, Pink Lie introduces an interesting concept that focuses on the foundations of every relationship to ask if love is all one needs. Unfortunately, the show suffers from multiple instances of bad pacing and poor execution. While Pink Lie never feels rushed, it eventually drags on as it narrows its focus on the more interesting Pink Mates. With the hosts hinting at a second season, hopefully Pink Lie returns with a better execution while retaining its intriguing concept.

(Youtube[1][2]. Images via Disney+.)