I have never speed dated. Sitting down with a random series of women and a timer does not, to me, equal an enjoyable experience.

For Mike, however, a middle-aged guy who doesn’t get out much and has difficulty engaging random women in public, it’s the only way he meets members of the opposite sex. He’s been speed dating for a number of years now with mixed success. Heather, like myself, has never speed dated and is attending a Speedie Date for the first time. She’s skeptical that she can really meet someone interesting under such pressurized conditions.

Thus begins episode one of Speedie Date, a refreshingly openhearted web series from Strike.TV about contemporary single life.

Most television about dating is comprised of lame “how-to” guides or awful reality “games” that feature wanna-be celebs. At the opposite pole from those dehumanizing, poppy, MTVified freak fests is this new web series from the minds of Kristiina Hackel and Lorin Wertheimer.

Speedie Date, although purely fictional, contains far more in the way of actual human feeling than any “reality” show. I’ll go so far as to consider the episodes as prose poems of web video. Depending on the installment, the situations presented range from harrowing, reeking of desperate, heavy nerves to light, playful conversation and expectation.

The writing here is far and away the best I’ve encountered on the web. Strong, nuanced performances by veteran actors (all of whom have lengthy theater and television credits) increase your ability to empathize with the characters, to experience their idiosyncrasies, anguish, the awkward silences, the inadvertent interruptions.

Upon my first encounter with Speedie Date‘s title logo, I expected the show to lean more towards the comic. But that’s not the intent at all. The series reflects real life. It’s not based on a rapid succession of gags, constant one-liners, or witty dialogue. The humor leans towards self-deprecation, acknowledgments of ironic scenarios, or realizations of unexpected commonalities.

The characters represent an array of personalities. In each six minute episode we meet a different couple during a round a speed dating. The bell rings and humanity’s extensive spectrum of neuroses, social ineptitude and sheer “undatableness” is exposed by the camera: a single mother who fears she’ll never have sex again meets a frustrated writer, a nervous math teacher sits down with a stunning aspiring actress, two professors from the same college find themselves engaged in an awkward flirtation.

If this series has the same effect on you as it did on me, you’ll quickly begin reliving every fruitless date you’ve ever been on, from the nice interactions where nothing really clicked to the less benign disasters that gave you an overwhelming desire to flee the scene.

As much as many of us loathe the act of dating (especially here in NYC), we’re generally able to find silver linings in the aftermath of even the worst encounters, and sometimes even discover exactly whoever or whatever we’re looking for.

Speedie Date‘s writers are acutely aware of this. I’m fairly heartless and unsentimental, but they’ve somehow managed to make me look forward to the next episode. Check it out at SpeedieDate.com or on Strike.TV.

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