Saturday, 14 April 2012

'The Undateables'

Aired: Tuesday 3rd April 2012

Channel 4

When adverts for ‘The Undateables’ began to air, viewers automatically fell into one of two camps. There were those who, suffering from a reality TV malaise, assumed the show would be exploitative and shameless, and there were those who were generally (and perhaps shamelessly) interested in what rendered someone ‘undatable’. These kinds of shows evoke a bizarre voyeuristic urge in me. Any show that gives me a glimpse into another person’s life always intrigues me. This is how I’ve been unwillingly sucked into shows such as ‘The World According to Paris’ and ‘Audrina’, because despite how scripted and false they are, I enjoy peeking over the white picket fence.

Despite the provocative and controversial title, ‘The Undatables’ is a very human look at the difficulties several individuals living with different disabilities have to endure in the dating world, which is hard at the best of times for the best of us, in an increasingly shallow and superficial society. First we meet Richard, an aspergers sufferer, who douses himself in cologne prior to his date and eats her food. Richard has an endearing innocence to his character but finds it difficult to navigate the dating world when his aspergers means that he only likes to date women within a certain radius and he can’t always pick up on social cues in conversation. We then meet Luke, a tourettes sufferer who is matched with the very accepting Lucy, who reacts only with mischievous laughter when Luke refers to her as a ‘slag’. Finally, we are introduced to trainee teacher Penny who suffers with extremely brittle bones that leave her wheelchair bound. Despite this, Penny dreams of the typical, TALL, dark and handsome boyfriend who will accept her for who she is.

Dating is always a minefield at best, but this show exposes what most of us know anyway, that anyone that doesn’t fit a preconceived mould will find dating harder than others, but also that there is someone for everyone (whether that someone wants them back is another story). I found this a very compelling watch and I truly felt for the characters. Even with their quirks and eccentricities, they were still very choosy (and so they should be).

So does the show exploit its characters? In my opinion, no. Sure, I can picture some 14 year old drones drinking beer and laughing at the TV, but that laughter might be more of a reflection on the ignorance of the viewers. I think the majority of watchers would enjoy this sensitive and honest portrayal of what dating is like for a disabled person. The search for love and acceptance is what makes us human, and it was a very sweet journey to watch these guys and girls bravely take that voyage.