Helmed by Cian O’Clery, both the Australian original and the American version of ‘Love on the Spectrum’ can only be described as dating reality shows that are as insightful as they are heartening. After all, they not only follow a set of people with neurodivergent features as they step into the complex world of dating, but they also explore the various aspects of living with autism in the most authentic yet respectful way imaginable.
This Netflix series emphasizes the fact that everyone, different or not, ultimately yearns for the same things in life — respect and affection. So now, if you have loved the genuine warmness it emanates at every step of the way, here is a list of recommendations that might fit your guilty pleasure tastes. You can find most of these shows similar to ‘Love on the Spectrum’ on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, or Amazon Prime.
7. Special (2019-2021)
Although a semi-autobiographical series instead of a reality one, ‘Special’ does do a lot for disability representation by having a concept that most mainstream productions rarely even touch. That’s because it’s primarily based upon actor, writer, comedian, LGBTQ+ activist, and disability advocate Ryan O’Connell’s 2015 memoir ‘I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves.’ This light-hearted comedy-drama revolves around a gay man with cerebral palsy as he pursues new friendships, love connections, and self-independence in an attempt to just start adulting.
6. Dating Around (2019-)
The title ‘Dating Around‘ might sound weird, but it is honestly entirely appropriate for a show wherein singles navigate a few first blind dates to hopefully find a partner worthy of much more. Like ‘Love on the Spectrum,’ it perfectly portrays the unpredictable, flirtatious, rocky, and simply awkward world of romance, which is why it deserves to be on this list. Moreover, it even has an international version in the form of ‘Dating Around: Brazil’ that is available to stream, right alongside the original, on Netflix, whenever you want.
5. Love is Blind (2020-)
With the careful way it centers around a group of singles trying to find a match, fall in love, and get engaged without seeing each other, ‘Love is Blind‘ is a reality dating series unlike any other. However, since it places the focus on heart and soul connections rather than physical ones, it matches the level of endearing exchanges on ‘Love on the Spectrum’ in every way, shape, and form. We should mention that its international adaptations include not just ‘Love is Blind: Brazil’ but also ‘Love is Blind: Japan,’ making it a franchise that is slowly yet surely taking over the globe.
4. REA(L)OVE (2018-)
‘REA(L)OVE’ may seem like it follows the traditional dating show format of contestants meeting and mingling with one another at an unusual location to find a life partner, but there is a catch. As things proceed, they have to reveal a “dark secret” they’ve been hiding about themselves to the group, whether it be a negative behavioral trait, criminal history, or addiction. Just like Netflix’s ‘Love on the Spectrum,’ the aim of this Japanese production is thus to highlight the fact that everybody deserves love — or at least some sort of an understanding — no matter what.
3. The Specials (2009-2014)
Set against the backdrop of the beautiful seaside town of Brighton, East Sussex in England, ‘The Specials’ follows the everyday lives of five friends/roommates with intellectual disabilities. While one of them has Williams Syndrome, the other four have Down Syndrome, so this docuseries truly gives us an inside look into what it’s like for neurodivergent individuals to be independent. It is as empowering as ‘Love on the Spectrum,’ which is why it comes as no surprise that even though it began as a web series, it soon transitioned into television.
2. Born This Way (2015-2019)
A&E’s ‘Born This Way’ can only be described as a documentary series that emphasizes the ups and downs of seven Southern California residents with Down Syndrome as they pursue all their goals in life. From their outgoing personalities to their personal relationships to the misconceptions around their overall needs, it explores every single aspect at one point or another. If you choose to watch this production following ‘Love on the Spectrum,’ you might even see a familiar face because Subodh Garg’s date Rachel Osterbach is one of the leading cast members in the A&E production.
1. The Undateables (2012-)
Not to be confused with the South Korean show of the same name, ‘The Undateables’ is a British reality production that revolves around people with long-term disabilities seeking love. These include developmental disorders such as autism, dwarfism, Down syndrome, or learning difficulties like ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia, or even neurological disabilities like narcolepsy. However, like ‘Love on the Spectrum,’ this series has an upbeat, authentic, and heartwarming air around it at all times because the participants are genuinely excited to be dating — nervous but excited.
Read More: Is Love On the Spectrum Scripted or Real?