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Delivering the Holiday Gift of Unscripted Romance

12 Dates of Christmas
'The 12 Dates of Christmas' on HBO Max adds holiday cheer to the TV dating genre. (Image credit: HBO Max)

Production company Objective Media Group America is delivering a unique take on both the holiday programming and dating/relationship genres with its new series 12 Dates of Christmas. 

The series, airing on HBO Max, follows three singles on a journey to Austria to meet that special someone to bring home for the holidays. 12 Dates of Christmas is the latest project from the All3Media America-owned company that is currently in production with several shows including WarnerMedia’s game show, The Cube, hosted by former NBA star Dwyane Wade, as well as shows for Food Network and Nat Geo Wild.

Objective Media Group America executive VP Jilly Pearce recently spoke to Multichannel News about 12 Dates of Christmas, as well as the continued popularity of the unscripted relationship genre through shows like ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, TLC’s 90-Day Fiancé, WE tv’s Love After Lockup and Lifetime’s Marriage at First Sight. She also discusses the prospects for production of original shows in 2021 during the interview, which was edited for space and clarity. 

MCN: How does adding a holiday theme to a reality dating show boost potential viewership?  

Jilly Pearce: I think this year more than any year, viewers are looking for that feel-good experience. We hope we’re giving the audience a gift with this show — it offers an optimistic feel that I think people are looking for. We had been thinking about how to bring an original twist to the dating genre. It’s basically like a dating experience in a snow globe. What we realized is what an incredible aphrodisiac Christmas and the holidays are for singles. By creating a wonderful, escapist bubble, we hope we created a very magical experience for the viewer that also leads to a happy ending. The show is also one of the first in the genre to embrace inclusiveness [with an African-American and a Latina contestant].

MCN: What has been the major driving force behind the growing popularity of unscripted dating/romance shows? 

JP: I think there is an optimism to it. This has been a really trying and incredibly dark year for a lot of people, so they are looking for something that is light, entertaining and feels good for the audience. We’ve also all been challenged in terms of connecting with each other. We are no longer able to have those close connections that we took for granted not too long ago, and I think that dating and relationship shows give you that connection again. You get to watch people genuinely fall in love, and that’s an amazing feeling in a year when the world feels a little divided and disconnected. 

MCN: How do you see the television business evolving in 2021 as it climbs back toward some sense of normality? 

JP: That’s a really interesting question. What this year has taught us is that nothing is concrete. Whatever I was projecting for next year has gone straight out the window. Having said that, I’ve been incredibly impressed by how our industry has been able to respond and pivot, and I think that everyone will continue to do that. Things have been so challenging, but we have been able to film numerous shows this year from the field as well as the studio. I think there are incredible and unique challenges to filming in COVID times, but I’ve been impressed by everybody’s ability to meet those challenges and to be incredibly creative in the face of all of that. I really admire the networks and streamers that continue to take those risks, and I hope that’s how it continues into next year.