After a year where great leaps were made in raising mental health awareness due to high-profile headline cases, The Undateables has become outdated, uninformed and, quite frankly, cruel.
Returning to Channel 4 for its third series, the show claims to change the perceptions of its audience in relation to the stars of the programme; to show them as the normal members of society they are and to open viewers’ eyes to the trials and tribulations of the ‘undateable’ façade. It has, however, also been lauded as not much better than the bastard child of a Victorian freak show and Blind Date, allowing audiences to point and laugh at the things that make these people different, rather than inform the audience or even inspire a sense of togetherness.
In this series’ first episode we meet Mary, Daniel and Hayley, all of whom would be categorised as ‘different’ (Mary has a common form of Dwarfism, Daniel has Autism and Hayley has Apert syndrome), and get to know them as the programme progresses. The interviews are presented tastefully and with respect, although the interviewer frequently condescends and simplifies her questions, coming across as unprofessional and poorly informed.
As we follow our new friends through their dates with potential partners, it’s almost impossible not to feel voyeuristic and even uncomfortable. One wonders if audiences would watch this programme if it weren’t for the fact that the people it follows are ‘different’. It becomes a viewings boosting freak show for the masses to snigger at, disguised as a sensitive programme chronicling three people’s quests for love.