What is it that’s kept First Dates fans so keen for more after half a dozen series?
It’s not just the promise of seeing romance bloom or crushed to pulp, but also because we see such wildly different humans with strange, inspirational and sad stories to tell. From a gay Geordie postwoman to a wheelchair-using bingo obsessive to an army veteran who was homeless for several years, First Dates is genuinely eye-opening and has often left me in awe of humans in a way I don’t feel when watching the news, or Big Brother and Made in Chelsea.
So it’s great news that First Dates Abroad is now being shown on Channel 4. More dates, more humans, more exciting stories. Except that with the two Australia-based episodes I’ve seen so far, the spark isn’t really there. So far the singletons are a little too confident, a touch too polished and a bit too predictable.
While the British version has its sleek, smooth movers, it also has plenty of people who look like they’ve stumbled into First Dates by accident and are about to collapse with terror. There’s lots of heart-warming “I’m quite bad at dating, I’m really awkward ” self deprecation which, let’s face it, is often warranted.
On the Australian version, I’ve yet to see a single person who I’ve really cheered on or felt is actually being challenged. They’re all too good at flirting and playing the dating game. We’ve had a few sales executives, a topless waiter, some sporty types, a beauty queen and entrepreneurs who don’t seem to have any great secrets or life stories to tell. I’m sure they do, but we don’t find out about their lives much at all. Whereas on the British version, the truck driver turned out to also be an erotic thriller writer, the Australian daters seem a little less surprising.
Of course, it’s not that British people, or the daters who live here, are inherently more interesting than singletons Down Under but perhaps the type of people who have applied, or been chosen, for the Aussie version are a little more typical. We want some less telegenic daters, goddamit!
It’s still good fun – how could it not be? – and I’ll certainly be spending more time with First Dates Abroad. But I hope that next time we’ll get an elderly widower, a non-straight couple and a clown with a ferret obsession who all have wise, inspiring, profoundly human stories to reveal.
First Dates Abroad starts tonight at 10pm on Channel 4