So, you’re single this V-day, and debating whether to hit up the apps for a good distraction. Now, you could go on Tinder and swipe your heart — and $500,000 — away to some swindler. Or you could save yourself some trouble and cozy up with some of the best characters across the streamers this Valentine’s Day. We’ve gathered a starter list of the best Stream Dates to deliver a blissful, wistful romantic evening.
Modern Love’s ‘Strangers on a Train’ – Michael (Kit Harrington) and Paula (Lucy Boynton)
Set in March 2020, as the world’s on the brink of what is supposed to be a 2-week Covid shut down, two strangers meet on a train heading to Dublin. Paula (Lucy Boynton) is returning home from a shortened semester, while Michael (Kit Harrington) is headed to the city for a vacation from his tech job. Over the course of several hours, the two share undeniable sparks. As they part ways at the station, Michael insists that they don’t exchange last names or numbers. Instead, they will meet back at the same train terminal in exactly two weeks. If it was meant to be, it will be.
The problem, of course, is the pandemic, and the lock down that extended well beyond their two week window. It’s a short film within the second season the Modern Love anthology series, so you will have to watch the rest to see what happens. But both Harrington and Boynton’s characters bring an old fashioned romance to the up-to-the-moment true stories adapted from the popular New York Times column, and Jon Snow has never been more charming.
Where to find it: Prime Video
MotherFatherSon’s Caden Finch (Billy Howle) and Orlan (Niamh Algar)
If you’re missing Succession but looking for a character you could actually root for and fall for, try this BBC drama about the tortured son of a British media magnate. Billy Howle plays Caden Finch, the dashing offspring of two warring parents (played by Richard Gere and the late Helen McCrory) who’s been charged with running one of his father’s influential newspapers. But as he callously tries to live up to his father’s demands, Caden begins to buckle under the stress, spiraling into drugs and anonymous sex until he nearly self-destructs.
What happens to him on the other side will draw you in deep. A riveting transformation (and performance), inspired-by-real-life political and media storylines, and an unlikely love story that will surprise you as it breaks down your own defenses. Caden ends up entranced with a smart but equally damaged military intelligence agent, Orlan (Niamh Algar), and their chemistry and connection are convincing, enough for both of them to enchant you as stand-in romances from the safety of your couch.
Emily in Paris – Gabriel and Alfie
The real reason so many viewers can’t resist this guilty pleasure, no matter how much they rant about it, is the casting of the romantic interests.
If you prefer your streaming date to be soccer player handsome, quietly mysterious, and French, you’ll want to watch the first season of Emily for a binge date night with Gabriel (Lucas Bravo), Emily’s upstairs neighbor…who conveniently offers his shower when hers no longer works. His square jaw and sultry eyes are the first hook, but as the actor who plays Gabriel, Lucas Bravo, explains it, the character shares some of his own endearing traits: “I’m kind of lost, but hopeful and curious about anything that’s going to happen to me,” he tells Glamour.
If striking looks, a British accent, and a high-rolling job in international finance sound more titillating, you’ll want to jump straight into bed with Season 2 of EIP, when she meets Alfie (Lucien Laviscount), a London transplant, in her French class. Alfie is luring an entirely new audience of viewers into the Parisian fold with his charismatic, suspenders-and-pin-stripes sex appeal. If you find yourself getting a little too hooked, well you can always find more of the actor who plays Alfie in Coronation Street.
Where to watch Emily in Paris (Season 1 & 2): Netflix.
Sex/Life’s Brad (Adam Demos) and Billie (Sarah Shahi)
He has the tousled, sun-streaked hair and Australian accent of a teen idol, but Sex/Life’s Brad (Adam Demos) is definitely all grown up. Despite his surfer looks, he’s intense and troubled, escaping a mysteriously dark past, which is catnip to psychology grad student Billie (Sarah Shahi), so much so that she can’t stop obsessing about him despite being married with two small kids in high-end Connecticut.
Viewers couldn’t stop obsessing over the guy either, especially as he delivers what can only be called soft porn for women…and men, for that matter. Every episode of the New York-set series is like a steamy fantasy date, where each setting plays a part in the seduction: his rooftop pool, his sleek low-lit Manhattan penthouse, his music producing studio, Soho art galleries and downtown clubs that never cease to deliver a low-lit place to steal away.
Billie has her own growing fan base as the smart-but-sultry married mom flashing back to her tumultuous but far more thrilling life with Brad. Upping the ante on the chemistry, the actors are actually dating in real life. (Thank. God. Imagine being their partners and watching all. that. sex!)
Where to watch Sex/Life: Netflix
Single’s Inferno – Kim Hyeong-joong
Part Love Island, part Survivor, the new Korean reality show Single’s Inferno follows nine very attractive men and women trying to find love on a deserted island, with very few trappings to get by. But if they’re lucky, they get to escape to Paradise, a different island with a luxury resort, where couples “get to know each other for one night” before returning to the group.
All of the contestants bring the sex appeal and intrigue, and each of them is already a “star” in their own right. Two are K-pop singers, one’s a rapper, another is an Intagram model, another an entrepreneur, and a few are recognizable actors. “There isn’t a bad one in the bunch, but for me, it’s hard to resist Kim Hyeong-joong’s, a successful Instagram model with dimples and impressive physique,” says Watercooler contributor and K-Pop podcaster Emily Mallon. “He’s more than just a pretty face though! He seems shy at first but his personality blossoms as the show goes on and he seems to have a pure heart. I’d be thrilled to have him as my New Years date!”
But consider Single’s Inferno your New Year’s party and tropical escape, where you can meet and “get to know” a few candidates before settling on your (vicarious) date for the night.
Where to watch Single’s Inferno: Netflix
Love Life Season 2’s Marcus (William Jackson Harper)
You might remember him from The Good Place, but if you’re looking for the streaming beau version of William Jackson Harper, check him out in HBO Max’s season two of Love Life, where he plays a newly-divorced 30-something unraveling as he’s thrown back into the dating pool.
From undergrads to three-ways to an instant cohabitation to a bumpy will-they-or-won’t-they situationship, we see all of his “versions,” until we ultimately realize that Marcus “simply doesn’t know how to be in a healthy romantic relationship,” explains Ineve Komonibo of Refinery29. “Everything he thought that he knew about navigating the dating world turns out to be wrong, leading him to a painful but thoroughly necessary mental reset.” Join us on the couch with our remotes, Marcus!
But there’s a catharsis in watching (and stream-dating) Harper, and the actor explains it in The Cut: “My point of view is less sentimental, and in a lot of ways my outlook is less romantic, but the romance is coming from the situation and the honesty that the characters are having with each other rather than leaning into the idea of what romance is supposed to be.”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) & Scenes from a Marriage Joseph Levy (Also Isaac) and Mira Philips (Jessica Chastain)
He’s been called “the internet’s boyfriend” and the Sexiest Man Alive, and to understand why, you might want to start your streaming date night by cuing up The Force Awakens to see him as a wisecracking hotshot Resistance pilot Poe Dameron. A rebel who adheres to a strong moral code, it’s his intense stare that makes it hard to look away from the guy, and you’ll find yourself wishing you could ride shotgun.
But to see more of him…much more of him…you’ll have to night cap your date with Scenes from a Marriage, where he goes full frontal after a sex scene with his soon-to-be ex Jessica Chastain. She’s cheated on him, precipitating the end of the marriage, so he earns your sympathy along with your lust. And in contrast to his fleeing ex, he remains the stable father who sticks around to care for his kid.
But forget all that: Isaac the actor is devastatingly sexy, and after a seemingly spontaneous move at the premiere of the series, in which he paid a seductive homage to Chastain’s arm, he will surely fire up the imagination of what your own new year could contain. If you’d just get off your couch.
Nathan For You’s Nathan (Nathan Fielder)
He’s been described as “the Prince of Pranking,” and he may seem like an unlikely streaming beau, but Nathan Fielder has made the list of surrogate New Year’s dates. In Comedy Central’s Nathan For You, he plays a version of himself as he drops into various stores and restaurants “to help” with outrageous business ideas, like suggesting that a fro-yo place add a “poop” flavor while advising another store to let attractive people take one item for free to model them.
Watercooler contributor Sarah Mina Osman explains the appeal: “While his ideas are generally not good, the show is funny and he’s very endearing. My husband makes fun of me because he is my celebrity crush, and he says that my celebrity crush should be a hunk and not a nerd (even though my husband is a nerd).”
Where to watch Nathan for You: Comedy Central or HBO Max
Looking for more love-and-romance movies or TV shows to watch with actual in-real-life dates? Check out our Watercooler’s Date Night guide for new romance, old flames, rekindling the spark, Netflix and Chilling, or friend date watches.