It was definitely a surprise when I first heard that there would be a reality dating competition based on the webtoon-turned-Netflix drama Love Alarm. As the reality dating genre has taken off in the last year in Korea, the concept of the Love Alarm in a real life scenario is absolutely fascinating on paper. And it turns out, with some good execution and a solid cast, it is also fascinating on television.
Love Alarm Clap! Clap! Clap! (좋아하면 울리는 짝!짝!짝!) is definitely an interesting twist on the reality dating scene. Adapted from the popular webtoon and the popular (though polarizing) drama series, Love Alarm‘s use of technology offers a refreshing and welcome variable in the format.
Using the Love Alarm app, one can tap on someone who has caught their eye in order to send them a heart. But the receiver of the heart will only be able to see the anonymous confession if they are within a ten-meter radius. In the webtoon and television series, the app is the catalyst for a lot of juicy drama. And in the series, specifically, an almost dystopian tinge to the proceedings as a judgement on the social media culture of likes and follows.
In this reality dating version of the premise, the app does serve up some initial tension and drama in the first couple of episodes with regards to the relationships of the singles taking part. But the app and the collected hearts are much more valuable in the competition aspect of the series.
By literally capturing the hearts of their fellow singles, the contestants are able to gain advantages when it comes to dates and securing time with someone they’re interested in. There are even opportunities to sabotage other singles or even get them eliminated from the competition. But most importantly, the hearts help determine who will win a 10 million won cash prize. Alongside winning at love too, potentially.
In that sense, Love Alarm seems to bring together pieces from many different dating formats including Love Island and the Netflix hit that ushered in this wave of Korean dating shows, Single’s Inferno.
But Love Alarm is strongest in the way it allows its singles more opportunities to meet and get to know each other. The singles live together in a “hotel” beach house where they eat, sleep and mingle with one another aside from their chances to go out on dates in restaurants and attractions in the area.
The singles here seem to take much more initiative in getting to know each other. The series shows them talking and chatting even when there’s not much else going on such as games or when lucky contestants are out on dates. The singles are also more open with their feelings, both to each other and to the audience by way of confessionals.
The app certainly adds a unique dynamic to sort of nudge singles to one another, as well as fuel the competitive nature of the series. That competition aspect, especially when there’s cash money involved at the end, might be something that helps push the singles to be more proactive. That is, compared to a show like Single’s Inferno where it seems like the singles are content to just let pieces fall where they may.
The combination of the more competitive atmosphere (including a very tense head-to-head in the early episodes) and perhaps a cast that is more willing to put themselves out there really helps Love Alarm stand out and offer more to grab onto and enjoy.
Of course, Love Alarm gained a lot of attention during its run as a few of the singles were open about potentially being attracted to someone of the same sex. In the first episode, one male contestant sent his heart to another male single. And later in the series, a female contestant would express her feelings toward a fellow female single.
Love Alarm‘s format definitely allows for it to be open to all people, regardless of gender or sexuality. And the way the series presented that possibility was with great care. Especially as a series in Korea where sexuality and gender is not something freely discussed in mainstream media.
Overall, Love Alarm offers a wonderfully refreshing twist on the reality dating show. And their execution and solid casting allowed for the format to be fully utilized. Romance, drama and lighthearted moments abound throughout the 13-episode series. Being able to fill those 13 episodes with enough material is a great feat in and of itself. But Love Alarm has been a legitimately engaging, fun and refreshing series.