White actresses like Lucy Hale (A Nice Girl Like You), Emma Roberts (Holidate), and Justice (A Perfect Pairing) have made their careers off of titles like Partner Track, but when actresses of color like Cho, Christina Milian, and Kat Graham lean into them, as is their right, it feels like both a win and a letdown. It’s a complicated and unfair reaction that’s based on decades of pressure and expectations that when actresses of color do make it as a lead, they should be turning out Oscar-winning performances, because they need to do the most to earn their spot, regardless of the material they’re given or the point of the actual show. And it’s a knee-jerk reaction that’s not helping anyone, least of all actors and creators of color.
Partner Track is far from the first and definitely won’t be the last show or movie that doesn’t do it for me, for a host of reasons. While the show makes an attempt at talking about race in dating, it ends up feeling more like a throwaway check mark off their to-do list; the main romantic interest is toxic with a capital T, and the writing is pretty cheesy (of course, what’s “good” and “not good” is entirely subjective). But it is one of a few shows that, when I saw the trailer, I initially groaned then crossed my fingers and hoped it would be good.