Netflix’s newest romantic comedy is fun, addictive and an excellent reminder of the power of pen on paper in a world dominated by social media. But more than any of that, it’s Christmas porn.
Set and filmed in New York City at Christmastime (production wrapped in December 2019), Dash & Lily is a bittersweet escape into a pre-pandemic holiday wonderland, one where differences are forgotten, love conquers all and you never know when you might find yourself at a Jonas Brothers concert.
Star Austin Abrams always knew that the New-York-at-Christmas aspect of the show would be a huge draw, noting that showrunner Joe Tracz was “adamant about all the locations being as authentic a possible,” but he could never have predicted the additional emotional value of displaying a world without the coronavirus. “That turned out to be one of the show’s biggest strengths, which we had no idea was going to happen,” Abrams tells TVLine. “But I am happy that it does supply people with that nostalgic feeling.”
The magic begins in Episode 1 at famed NYC bookstore The Strand, where Abrams’ character — a wealthy, mildly pretentious teenage Grinch named Dash — discovers a mysterious red notebook left by a romantic, Christmas-loving stranger named Lily (played by Midori Francis). She promises to reveal more about herself if he completes a series of dares, from doing a dramatic reading of Joni Mitchell’s “River” in front of the entire bookstore to boldly carrying around a copy of The Joys of Gay Sex. Any way you shake it, it’s hardly a typical experience at The Strand.
“It was crazy to be in these places and have free rein,” Abrams says of the many iconic New York landmarks featured in the show’s first season, from Macy’s Herald Square to Grand Central Station. “You’re used to walking through tons of people everywhere, so it was really crazy to be able to walk around and have it all to yourself.”
Following a failed sting operation and a traumatic brawl with a department store Santa, Dash ends the premiere on a high note, having finally nabbed a clue about Lily’s secret identity — her first name. What transpires in the following handful of episodes is an endearing back-and-forth between two people who won’t meet face-to-face for quite some time.
“The production schedule very much mirrored the show in that aspect,” Abrams says. “I’d show up to shoot my scenes, and [Midori] would leave. Then it would be her turn, and I’d leave. So it was very similar to how the show is. She and I have such a great connection, so I wish we had more scenes together, but I do love that the audience gets to put everything together along with the characters.”
Will you follow Dash & Lily‘s romantic adventure — based on David Levithan and Rachel Cohn’s young-adult book series — to its potentially happy conclusion? Grade the premiere below, then drop a comment with your thoughts on the series.