Bold claim huh? And of course, some people will be like ‘no, it’s War and Peace, you cretin’, while others are going ‘duh, Take Me Out‘ (I love them both, btw).
But to my mind First Dates is simply fabulous. It’s reality TV, but without the cruelty of The X Factor, the madness of Big Brother or the general ‘why are we all doing this?’ of The Voice.
Of course, reality TV is popular because we’re all inherently nosy, and there is nothing more interesting than watching people as they go through the exciting, excruciating and, for all they know, life-changing experience of a first date.
After all, it’s hard to relate to the person belting out Whitney tunes to impress some arsey talent show judges, or the bloke fannying about inside The Cube, but nearly all of us have experienced a first date and that super nervous, slightly thrilled, oh-my-god-I-think-I’m-actually-hysterical feeling that it brings.
You can see it on the faces of the First Dates singles as they’re sitting waiting at the bar – terror mixed with glee, because this might actually be the moment they meet the love of their life. It reminds you how exhilarating and full of potential dating can be – a helpful reminder for those who feel that Tinder and Happn have turned romance into, well, the most unromantic thing ever.
And what I really love is that the Channel 4 producers truly want to make good matches. Imagine if ITV did First Dates – we’d have horrifically awkward pairings just to have viewers peeking out from behind their sofa cushions and screeching, as if they were watching an I’m A Celebrity Bushtucker Trial.
But Ch4 take the time to match couples who might really get along – and they often do. When the series returned on Friday, we saw one pair matched up for their love of pugs (ok, turned out they had nothing else in common, but the producers had tried) and a lovely older couple, David and Margaret, who got on like a house on fire ( ‘I couldn’t have written a personal description better than the one you found me’ David told the cameras afterwards. D’aww).
Given the excellent match-making, it’s no surprise that the previous series led to a good number of loved up couples – gay, straight, old and young – and even a proposal (desperate to know how those two are getting on, btw).
Another brilliant thing about this show is that it serves to remind us that a) everyone is so, SO different and b) there really is someone for everyone. When the male pug lover, Gareth, relayed tales of being asked at weddings why he was single and wanting to reply ‘I don’t know… because I’m a knob’ I bet there were thousands of people who could relate. But what First Dates demonstrates is that actually, there are loads of wonderful people who’ve taken years to find a partner – and it certainly isn’t because there’s anything wrong with them.
It also demonstrates that just because you like a person, and they don’t like you back (pug lovers, I’m looking at you) doesn’t mean they are more fun, or better, or more interesting than you – just different. A good lesson for all those people who’ve received the dreaded ‘It’s not you it’s me’ text after a few dates they really thought were going somewhere.
Perhaps my favourite couple from last night were Arunima and Simon. Arunima was gorgeous, funny, clever and completely unashamed of the fact that her fave hobby was to hang out at the bingo with her ‘Grandma’ squad (people who have a weird hobby and don’t give a sh*t about telling everyone are my favourite, by the way). Anyway, Arunima also happened to be in a wheelchair, which she evidently felt was a huge burden to put on her date, and bound to put men off.
Luckily Simon was unfazed and, more importantly, forgot about the wheelchair as soon as he realised what a gem she was. When Arunima welled up at the end of the show, telling the camera that his reaction had made her ‘re-evaluate’ herself (‘I think I need to give myself more credit’) we were all air-punching along with her. Again, the point the shows makes is that you should never deem yourself ‘unlovable’, and that, if you meet the right person, they see past your supposed ‘imperfections’.
I know First Dates is not world class drama, nor is it some kind of intellectual documentary teaching me more about, say, the Chinese economy. It’s just a bunch of ordinary folk, doing what nearly everyone tries to do in life – find love. But that’s why I find it so fascinating. And why I’m encouraging all my single mates to sign up to appear on it ASAP.
(Pics: Channel 4)