A socially-distanced take on the Rob Beckett-narrated reality series, Celebs Go Virtual Dating is currently in full swing on E4, with four single celebrities visiting the agency in search of love (via Zoom).
So far, the shorter series has seen its dating experts matchmake Geordie Shore’s Chloe Ferry, TOWIE’s Pete Wicks, Love Island’s Shaughna Phillips and rugby player Levi Davis, sending them off on both virtual and socially-distanced in-person dates with single strangers.
With the current series breaching new territory – love in the time of coronavirus – RadioTimes.com spoke to the show’s dating expert Paul C Brunson and the agency’s renowned receptionist Tom Read Wilson about the biggest surprises of the season and how the celebs found sticking to a two-metre distance.
“It’s much harder, without a doubt and quite honestly, it evens the playing field,” Brunson said. “I think a lot of celebs are used to using their ‘celebrity’ when they’re dating, so say you’re dating Pete Wicks – would you expect maybe for him to put his hand on your shoulder or on your leg? What that means is they kind of use the physicality of being a celebrity all the time.”
He continued: “I’ve seen women celebrities do this on the show too. They’ll literally rub their breasts up against someone, I’ve seen just the physicality of it – but on this series, they can’t do any of that, they literally have to stay the two metres apart so it’s one of these where they’re forced to engage in ways they’ve never had to engage.”
The dating agent, who joined the show in 2018, added that he was most surprised by TV personality Chloe Ferry’s approach to the socially-distanced element of dating.
“With Chloe, the surprise is that she’s someone who uses her physicality a lot when she dates, and she is a very sensual person so she has to figure out now to how to convey romantic interest without it all being about her body which I think was a challenge for her.”
Another stand-out celeb for Brunson was Ealing Trailfinders’ player Levi Davis, who took the process more seriously than he expected him to. “He’s one of the youngest celebs, and I thought he would come on very jokey jokey, but he was serious,” he said. “He really took this on in a way that I’ve never seen a celebrity take it on. He was impressive.”
While client coordinator Read Wilson was taken aback by Pete Wicks and his reluctance towards virtual dating. “I was surprised by how apprehensive he was, and I was also surprised at his assessment of what he thinks his dating gifts are, because I would say they’re totally different to what I think they are.”
He added that while Wicks thinks his strengths lie in his “physical prowess” and “seduction”, Read Wilson thinks otherwise. “I think his real skill set lies in flirtatious badinage and persiflage and making their grey cells dance and really stimulating them. So, I actually think he’s probably the most suitable for a virtual conduit where you’re really thinking from the neck up.”
With Celebs Go Virtual Dating leading the way when it comes to socially-distanced meet-ups and virtual rendezvous on TV, do the faces of the show think that other dating series may follow suit during the pandemic? “I don’t see why they couldn’t really,” Read Wilson says. “I think it’s been such a steep learning curve for our celebrities and I think that in and of itself is fascinating to behold.”
Brunson definitely thinks remote dating could be way forward for reality shows in the future. “No matter at what point in the history of this world – we’ve seen lots of disasters, whether it be plagues, whether it be wars, etc – love always persists,” he said. “There has never been a time when dating has stopped, there’s never been a time when love has stopped so as a result, you’re going to see television just adapt. Just as we have had to adapt to it with social distance dating, you’ll see TV adapt to it.”
Celebs Go Virtual Dating airs Mondays at 10pm on E4. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.