The Undateables Episode One Review

THE UNDATEABLES: Tuesday 3rd April, C4, 9pm

It would’ve been easy to assume that Channel 4’s latest docu-series would overstep the mark and reach dizzy new heights of exploitative viewing. The premise seemed familiar; cameras would follow extraordinary members of the public with varying disabilities as they embarked upon what they hoped was the path to true love, having signed up with a dating agency. But the touching coverage of their brave attempts to date was actually a far cry from the cynicism of popular Channel 4 shows My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and Embarassing Bodies.

The lonely hearts, 37 year-old Richard and twenty somethings Luke and Penny, are an engaging trio, each of whom have had limited luck finding romance so far in their lives. As each of them arrange dates with candidates sourced by the dating agency, the optimism they all have towards their impending suitors is quite admirable, but it’s their brutal honesty about their lack of partners that really hits home.

The programme manages to show some of their fascinating quirks without becoming patronising, for example a clip that shows Richard unload an entire can of bodyspray over himself because you must ‘be careful’ on a date. Although he subsequently chases a date off by demolishing her plate of cold fish and chips. As a man with Asperger’s, he finds it difficult to connect with people or to understand reasoning different from that of his own, but he meets with two women over the course of the show and is seemingly more confident as he moves from date to date.

Similarly the refreshing honesty of wheelchair-user and Circus performer Penny is admirable – despite being just over 3ft herself Penny likes men over 6ft and when her potential love interest turns up also using a wheelchair she admits to her parents that she would like to date someone ‘without a disability’ because she thinks they will be more ‘outgoing.’

Even Tourette’s sufferer Luke manages to put aside his anxiety as he goes on several dates with a young lady who embraces his condition and finds it endearing, although as a stand-up comic, his reserves of confidence may have been easier to tap.

Some critics might say that Undateables goes beyond voyeurism towards something slightly more sinister, but the strength of the characters within the programme and some of the tact used means that as well as raising awareness of their disabilities, the exceptional personalities of the three love-seekers outshines anything else.

Not all of them end up with new partners, but the fact that they all have people interested in them shows that there is somebody for everybody, no matter how romantically challenged.