First Dates: A perfect show for escaping deadlines & exams

You have had a rough night. Questionable drinking choices paired with those pesky deadlines that just will not go away no matter how many things you put in front of it combine to make a beautiful pile of ‘today is a complete write-off’. You eat a super-sized bowl of cereal because there is nothing else in and settle down for a rich day full of the internet – you have earned it. But what to watch? You have discovered that The Good Wife was anything but, and that the Game of Thrones is not going to be won any time soon. At first glance, it would seem like there is nothing left for you.

Allow me to present to you the phenomenon of First Dates. For the inexperienced reader, First Dates is a reality show apparently created for the viewer too impatient for speed dating, and too lazy to actually go out on a date themselves. The programme allows you to watch two strangers matched by the production team go on a blind date at a restaurant, complete with sassy host and surly waiter.

And there is much to be said for the participants on the show. What would possess anyone to actually submit themselves to an often-agonising couple of hours of sharing a somewhat decent meal with a total stranger is beyond me. Granted, it does seem sometimes that contestants are only on the show having been nominated by a mate – who you can imagine cackling at home watching their poor friend on the telly struggle to eat carbonara during the worst two hours of their life.

Perhaps my wording there does not quite sell this. There is definitely an insane addictive appeal to the show. Perhaps, it is the contestants themselves that keep us watching. Often outgoing personalities are paired with wallflowers, stereotypical ‘lads’ (this is reality TV, after all) matched with sheepish divorcees, and reluctant bachelors are put with older widows. Whoever controls who is paired with who, they certainly have a God-given gift. You share the wave after wave of toe-curling conversation halters with the maître d’, a French charmer who exchanges knowing looks with the camera and the staff when anything goes belly up on the dates. And the outfit choices, despite being a matter of personal opinion, are often questionable. What is not to love?

But then, THEN, there are the magical moments. Ones when sparks actually fly – or are edited in post-production to give the illusion of it – as soon as the two dates lock eyes. When you can tell the date is a success as the couple takes the same taxi away from the restaurant. When the maître d’ gives a sly wink to the camera as the dates chuckle and accidentally-on-purpose brush hands. These moments, and others, give me life.

Finished with First Dates? Power up a level and try First Dates Ireland. It is like the UK version but the maître d’ is Croatian, and the waiter is, if possible, even surlier.


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Hattie Griffiths

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December 2021
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