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Joanne Azern's vision of international romance
The producer behind TLC's hit TV show 90 Day Fiance: Before the 90 Days gives insight to navigating the show and international love.

In most Western cultures, certainly in America, we want to believe in love. Romance is considered an essential part of a lasting relationship, typically a requirement in the early stages.

Joanne Azern has been a proponent of this premise. She is an Executive Producer on TLC's massively successful franchise 90 Day Fiance (which also includes 90 Day Fiance: Before the 90 days90 Day Fiance: Happily Ever After?, and 90 Day Fiance: What Now?) which are among the most popular programs on the network. Azern was enlisted (from MTV) for season two of 90 Day Fiance to implement some fresh changes.

Her effect was so successful that when Sharp Entertainment (the production company behind creating this hit franchise) wanted to test the waters for the spin-off 90 Day Fiance: Before the 90 Days, they placed Joanne at the helm of the series. The results were astounding. Season 2 of 90 Day Fiance: Before the 90 Days brought in the highest-rated season premiere in franchise history. The series went on to achieve the highest viewing figures of any 90 Day Fiance series to date. The show spent 6 consecutive weeks at #1 on Sunday night cable ratings. Seven episodes boasted more than two million viewers, with 2.9 million for the final episode of the season (source Nielsen).

90 Day Fiance: Before the 90 Days was repeatedly in the top nationally trending hashtags on Twitter during its second season, and the Facebook page for the 90 Day Fiance franchise has over 400k page likes. Celebrity fans who weighed in on the show via social media included Lady Gaga, Iggy Azalea, Any Schumer, Kathy Griffin, and others. The show itself has literally reached celebrity status.

 The success of 90 Day Fiance was so profound that the creators of the show were eager for a fresh and innovative follow up series. One source of confidence was having Azern assume the Executive Producer role. A twist on the original premise, 90 Day Fiance: Before the 90 Days took an inverse perspective with the American citizen travelling to a foreign country to meet a love interest they had only connected with online. Armed with the hope of true love as well as the trepidation of an uncertain response to an approaching marriage proposal, this show even more profoundly depicts what the desire for love will elicit from someone. There's a uniqueness to the program that none of the others in this franchise offer. Will the reality of the person match up to expectations? Is the foreigner who they say they are? What discoveries will be made once they meet in person? Will the foreigner even turn up? The show is all about the firsts and Azern was responsible for capturing this. Because the vast majority of the filming takes places abroad, staying on top of travel and filming logistics is crucial. Production teams in multiple countries required constant communication to make certain all coverage is obtained and done so in a timely and legal manner.

Many of the stories told in 90 Day Fiance: Before the 90 Days are heart warming and revitalize a belief in love. Many of the couples must overcome huge obstacles to be together. Some Americans have never left the U.S. yet will travel to a developing country alone to meet their potential love.  Some couples don't speak each other's language and must use a translation app to communicate. Other couples must overcome large age gaps, disapproving family members and cultural misunderstandings, all a huge source of stakes and confusion in the world of international dating. Real life drama like seeing Americans risk being catfished or left alone in a foreign country reminds us all that travelling abroad can be risky, even in the midst of romance.  Yet often the couples overcome the odds and end up getting engaged after only a short amount of time spent together in person. 

What drew Joanne to the show is the same reason that made it such a hit with critics and audiences, the harshness of reality tempered by the belief in dreamers that it can be made better when shared. She remarks, "The desire to fall in love is a universal experience that everyone can connect with. As well as the positive emotions there's disappointment, crushed dreams, and heartbreak. Everyone can relate to these stories, and yet there is an element of 'I would never do that' that keeps viewers watching. Many people would not consider going online to meet someone who lives in a different country, proposing after only a few days or weeks after meeting in person and then paying thousands of dollars for a visa to bring them to the U.S. where they will get married in only 90 days. On top of that, there can be extreme skepticism from family and friends along the way.  The situation is fraught with tension and unknowns; factors in an ordinary relationship but even more amplified in this scenario. The show is gripping because viewers can root for the couples while not necessarily feeling like they would take the same course of action."

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