If you’re a fan of lines of dialogue like “You wouldn’t know love if it shat in your mouth” and “I like a circumcised dick. Shit, I’m out of chilli flakes”, then Netflix has the perfect show for you. The One is their latest drama, about a world in which people can use the eponymous dating service to be united with their genetically perfect ‘match’ – the person they are guaranteed to fall in love with. Unfortunately, while this is a fascinating premise (the credit for which goes to John Marrs, who wrote the original novel), the series is badly acted, bored of its own concept, and written by someone who doesn’t seem to have ever heard human beings talk.
It doesn’t bode well from the off, with a speech given by ‘The One’ founder Rebecca Webb (Hannah Ware) evoking wholly unrealistic responses from the audience. Webb thinks that “we deserve the fairytale” and has become unspeakably rich by giving it to people. While Ware’s monotonous delivery and soulless character may faithfully represent the kind of psychopathy necessary to become a tech CEO, it does mean that Webb is tediously boring from the beginning, and impossible for the audience to sympathise with.
We learn that The One is controversial, proving irresistible to millions of people but also – understandably – causing a spike in divorce rates. “All this ‘Move fast, break things’ bullshit. The things you break, other people have to fix,” says a government minister. In flashbacks we see that the ruthless Webb is hiding some incredibly worrying details about the way she founded the company. Three plots then interweave over the show’s eight episodes. One follows Webb’s attempts to bury the skeletons in her past; the other – so dull it is difficult to put it into words – concerns the love life of the policewoman sniffing around Webb; and one, the best by a country mile, is about the fallout of a wife meeting her husband’s match in secret.
Obviously, comparisons to Black Mirror abound. But these comparisons only make you appreciate how good Black Mirror actually was. With a few exceptions, the acting in The One is a struggle to watch, and the script reads like it has been poorly translated from another language. For some reason everyone is absurdly open about sex – see the circumcision line but also a woman telling her colleague “I enjoy sex with lots of different people” – while also being faintly disgusted whenever someone announces they’re popping out for a wee.
In other hands, this concept could certainly have made for a wonderful TV show. The conceit cannot be faulted; the implications of a dating app like The One would be radical. But The One, intent on being a crime drama whose premise has almost nothing to do with the dating service, squanders this opportunity in a misguided attempt to fill the screen with dead bodies. It is like giving up most of the pages of Harry Potter to a story about Muggles, who aren’t really aware that magic exists.
‘The One’ is on Netflix now