Aside from this picture, we’re finding it hard to see the point of First Dates Hotel.
After watching two episodes of the tweaked Channel 4 dating show, we’ve been left asking ‘quelle?’ and wondering just why the producers have bothered changing the title and format so softly.
In fact, First Dates Hotel is so similar to First Dates that the ‘Hotel’ element is basically as redundant as waiter Austin (just where is he?).
In the introduction for the new series, narrator Brian Protheroe explains that unlucky in love singletons are checking into the hotel for 48 hours. If their date in the restaurant goes well on the first night, they have the second day to spend together doing an activity (sigh. This isn’t Coach Trip).
Anyway, that’s all very well and good. Although we love First Dates and don’t want this perfect TV format messed with AT ALL by C4, we can see the fun of eavesdropping on a couple’s holiday; following them out of the restaurant and into the night – and then back out the next day to take on grape squashing or lavender picking or something equally stereotypically Provençal.
It’s just that in First Dates Hotel, none of that happens. At all. In fact, the USP of the whole show is often abandoned entirely.
In the first episode, the main focus was on two couples. The first, Kelly and Laurence, hit it off in the restaurant, and the next day we saw them head off on a bike ride into the French countryside to get to know each other a little better. It was very fleeting and pretty naff, but fine. Maybe the camera crew didn’t get anything too ooh la la.
But then Finella and Richard also had an amazing date and said they wanted to see each other again, so the next day we saw the couple head out of the hotel and straight…into a taxi to the airport. Eh?
This happened time and time again in the second episode. The closest we got to second date lolz was with 81-year-old Sheila and 79-year-old Bev. The hotel element was utilised with these two as we had a tantilising shot of a closed bedroom door with lots of groaning and moaning coming from inside. Had they really got on that well?
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After some ridiculous camera angles and innuendo involving cream, the camera panned out to show that – PHEW – Sheila was just giving Bev a foot rub. The next day, we then saw the elderly pair having a chat about The Yoof Of Today over their pain au chocolat at breakfast.
It was nice to see them still chatting and getting on so well, but they hadn’t actually escaped the confines of the hotel itself – they’d only made it as far as the pool. And yet this was as exciting as the second dates in this episode got.
After Tom and Tom and Poppy and Elliot both enjoyed very sweet first meetings, we were expecting to see these new couples getting up to all sorts of high jinks the next day.
So what exciting activities did they head off for the following morning? Er, nothing. Sheila and Bev might have only got the thrill of a pot of tea for their second date, but they should count themselves lucky. Tom/Tom and Poppy/Elliot were left with a one-way ticket back to Blighty.
More often than not, the differences between First Dates Hotel and First Dates are simply non-existent.
You have the pre-date interview filmed in the same heart-frieze-adorned room, the dates walk through a glass door to greet Fred at a lectern, they sit at a bar where Merlin mixes them a cocktail, they enjoy a romantic meal served by Cici before possibly heading outside to chat a bit more.
So we might get the odd aesthetically-pleasing establishing shot of Fred zooming through Provence in his convertible or Cici and Laura learning how to taste wine. But otherwise, you have to wonder whether it's really worth going all that way to the First Dates Hotel just to enjoy a post-date ciggie beside a beautiful pool rather than soggy St Paul’s.
First Dates Hotel airs Mondays at 10pm on Channel 4.