Emmanuel Demuren on why Channel 4’s First Dates is worth a watch
The latest example of “it shouldn’t work but it just does” television is Channel 4’s First Dates, the new dating programme that is raising the bar of reality TV from the terrible depths of The Valleys and Geordie Shore. It is undeniably compelling, even more so than Gogglebox and The Fried Chicken Shop, and is certainly a far cry from Channel 4’s Benefits Street, which shouldn’t work and definitely did not work. But I’ll save that rant for another time.
For those who haven’t managed to get round to watching it, First Dates is a show in which two strangers sit and have a date. I’ll admit that it doesn’t sound too exciting, but it’s honestly brilliant. Its greatness resides in the fact that it leaves the couple to it. There are no TOWIE-esque disclaimers that “some of these scenes are created for your entertainment,” and this is where its excellence lies: it gives the show the spontaneity necessary to keep viewers uncompromisingly gripped.
It’s difficult to predict how two people will interact with one another when they actually meet but the most interesting dates on the show are undoubtedly the dates in which chalk and cheese come together to create an imaginative and flamboyant cheeseboard (stretching the metaphor too far? Probably). As well as these curveball dates there have been many uplifting moments throughout the two series and, not surprisingly, countless instances of “wanting the ground to swallow you up” awkward situations. But that’s the great thing: it’s not you, so no hole needed (I’ll refrain from lowering the tone).
We get to chill in the comfort of our freezing student homes surrounded by housemates exclaiming “oh no, too desperate”, “what a bellend” and “yeah, she’s a bit of alright” when it’s just the boys watching (yeah that happens, not even ashamed) and “aww so cute” and “they’re such a good couple” when the girls are round (talk about perpetuating gender stereotypes). When we’re not commentating, we’re over-analysing. I don’t know what it is, but for some reason when we’re protected by the screen, we become the Descartes of the dating world. Everyone transforms into Hitch when the doors of the restaurant open and by the end of the episode, we’re left craving more so that we can impart our new-found wisdom. So if you’re nursing a hangover and need something comforting and fun that goes well with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, you’ve found your match.