The pandemic has kept many of us from leaving the house, but honestly, why would you want to? There is too much TV to watch to go outside. Outside doesn’t have Hulu or Netflix or HBO Max. To encourage you to stay home and stay safe, comedian/writer Rima Parikh and myself (two people who watched just as much TV in the before times) will be diving deep into the shows we’re loving or lovingly hate-watching, social-distance-style, over Google chat.
This time we tackle the original series in the ever-growing 90 Day Fiancé franchise, the TLC reality show (some seasons available to stream on Hulu) that follows internationally long-distance couples coming together in the United States on a K-1 visa. The twist? That visa only gives couples 90 days of living together (or often spending more than a week together in person) to get married, otherwise the non-American partner must return to their home country. The result? Hours upon hours of bingeable television.
Brianna Wellen: Rima. Let me start this off by confessing that as we have this chat I have 90 Day Fiancé playing in the background. I can’t stop, and there’s a seemingly endless supply of content. Will I ever hit the bottom?!
Rima Parikh: OK, thank you for saying that, because I was going to have it playing in the background, too. And then I was like, “Wow, Brianna would think this is fucking rude.” And now I feel relief! It’s addicting and never ends?
BW: I only started watching a few weeks ago in the throes of quarantine. When did you first get sucked into this mess?
RP: It was definitely during quarantine. I have no concept of what month or how long ago or even why. And then I realized that there’s so . . . much . . . of it. It reminds me of middle school when I’d watch VH1 reality shows all day for eight hours, and that’s what this quarantine x 90 Day collab has been like.
BW: For those who are unfamiliar, I would direct them to our friend Ashley Ray’s guide, which I have been using to navigate the 90 Day universe. A 90 Day aficionado herself, she mapped out the perfect way to get through the original and its at least five spin-offs.
RP: Ashley Ray’s 90 Day guide should be on JSTOR.
BW: Because there’s just SO MUCH it would be pointless for us to try to recap or parse out any of the way too many doomed love stories, so let’s get into the psychology of this show. Why can’t we stop watching it?
RP: I think part of it is definitely the pandemic and wanting to be sucked into someone’s else’s drama. And then the other part of it that surprised me when I started watching it was that it’s more earnest of a show than I anticipated. Like sure, there’s the TLC hyperproduced drama aspect of it, but there’s also something about watching some of the couples that really do want to make it work and wanting it so badly for them! Why do you think it’s been addicting?
BW: I definitely agree about the surprises! I wasn’t expecting any of the couples to truly have reciprocal love. I think that’s why there are so many spin-offs—TLC knows we want to see this truly work. It’s so strange how it feels like a game show concept, 90 days to get married. That urgency makes it endlessly addicting. On that same point, it also makes apparent how messed up the United States immigration process is, especially in all the seasons post-2016. Along with all the messy drama, I’m learning a lot about how terrible our country is (as are the people on the show).
RP: I think that’s one of the hardest things to watch about it—of the fiancé coming in from another country and almost always experiencing aggressive racism and xenophobia on camera. And partners often being ill equipped to step in and protect them, especially when it comes to awful family/friends.
BW: And almost always being disappointed by many aspects of America! There are so many spouses who come to America expecting New York City and end up with a Mormon in the middle of nowhere Utah.
RP: Oh my god, yes. It’s like, you guys should have . . . better communicated that rural Pennsylvania is actually different from, like, Miami.
BW: But obviously this show isn’t all about immigration education, let’s get into some of the best, most iconic dramatic moments of the series.
RP: OK the moment that comes to mind is in season five, with David and Annie, when David is being messy and gets a drink thrown at him. I wish 90 Day had more drink throwing. Drink throwing feels so comforting in reality TV, like tomato soup.
BW: David and Annie! In my opinion, one of the most confusing couples!
RP: WHY does she like him?
BW: David’s friends and family don’t even like him!
RP: He brought her ass to a WAREHOUSE and was like, “We’re gonna live here now.” And she was like, “That’s not ideal but I love you.”
BW: A frequent query from friends of the spouses on the show is, “How do you know this person isn’t just here for the money or to get a green card?” Because of that, to me the most iconic character (er, real person on this reality show) is Anfisa from season four, who from the very first second she is on screen says, in not so many words, “I came here because he said he would buy me things and I want a green card.”
RP: Yes! She was so upfront about it. Like when Jorge was like, “You wouldn’t love me if I didn’t have money?” and she was like, “Well you wouldn’t love me if I weren’t skinny and hot” it was like, OK she’s not wrong!
BW: Then of course there are the many couples with upsetting age differences.
RP: Yeah there were times where the producers should’ve intervened. Mark and Nikki from season three? A 39-year age gap?!
BW: I think another reason it’s so addicting is that I’m watching to see if these people get out of these relationships. Justice for Nikki! I hope she’s OK!
RP: I’ve been doing this thing where I look up spoilers for like two couples on the season I’m watching because otherwise it feels too stressful. And knowing whether people end up together or not doesn’t ruin it? Wow, millennials really are snowflakes, huh?
BW: If anything I’m finding it provides clarity for some of the actions. Like, ohhhh, now I understand why in season five Luis thought Molly was into witchcraft for no reason. He wanted to break up.
BW: Especially now, thinking about some of these couples in quarantine, that makes this show almost like a horror movie prequel.
RP: OK, speaking of horror movie prequels, Nicole from season four is allegedly quarantining in Morocco with Azan? OK! If that’s what you guys want to do!
BW: I did see that on Instagram! Another couple that I think should probably not be together! What’s different about this to me, too, is the normalcy of so many of these people. This isn’t just watching a bunch of hot influencer dummies try to find love on The Bachelor to get a FabFitFun deal. These are real people who sometimes struggle with finances and physical attraction and need to raise children. It makes it almost too real to watch. Almost.
RP: I feel like that’s also why it’s so addicting! You want them to be OK because they’re so normal.
BW: THEY’RE LIKE US! WE NEED TO ALL BE HAPPY!
RP: In a WAY, aren’t we ALL planning a wedding in 90 days?
BW: One of the spin-offs is 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way, Americans
going to other countries for their loves. Would you move to another country for someone you met on the Internet or vacation (the only two ways these couples meet)?
RP: Ooooh I don’t know. My first instinct is to say no, but if they lived somewhere where I could see myself living and adapting to cultural differences and where I could eventually communicate effectively with the people around me, maybe? Would you?
BW: I’m not sure, but I will say this: watching 90 Day Fiancé made me download Duolingo. If I am given the option, I’d like to learn the language. I am endlessly impressed at the couples who are mutually bilingual. I do find it interesting, also, that so many of the American halves of the couples get very angry when their spouse can’t adapt to American culture yet show no interest in learning about or adapting to the other culture. I think this show is actually just recorded proof that Americans are the worst.
RP: We’re pretty bad! Also the fact that some of the American spouses are mad about their fiancé not adapting to American culture on camera is a level of shamelessness that I wish I could have.
BW: I need more interviews with producers, more on-camera reactions from the crew, more family members saying, “It’s weird that you’re getting married in 90 days, and it’s also weird that this is all on camera.”
RP: I think watching this has really made me think about how reality TV is made. Is there a movie about this?
BW: Should we make this movie?
RP: Please! Just 1.5 hours of us calling the producers and begging for the secrets!
BW: I’m in.
RP: We would be so famous on the 90 Day gossip sites. I do want to say that I’m glad that 90 Day has such an extensive fandom. Like I’m not alone in only using LinkedIn to look up 90 Day cast members. It’s shameful, and we are a community!
BW: I agree! Another reason it’s so addicting is because it gives me something to talk about with everyone. Truly bringing people together in these trying times.
RP: :’) v