When I saw the first advert for The Undateables, my immediate reaction was apprehension. Being a tolerant person who, like most, is sensitive to the feelings of those with disabilities or health conditions, I was worried that this would be a program providing entertainment for people looking for the ‘shock factor’ in their TV viewing.
But having watched the show from the beginning, and it’s now in its fifth series, I have to say it’s become a favourite of mine. The main worry that people seem to have is that it’s making fun of these individuals, but I have found the narrative of the program to be caring, understanding and kind. The people organising the dates seem to really care about each candidate; ensuring they are paired appropriately to the right person for them, and always excited to hear how the date went afterwards. The mindless name might steer the perception of viewers in the wrong direction, but those involved are allowed to reveal their personalities, as lively, cheerful individuals with depth and exuberant positivity. The narrator doesn’t focus on the disability of the candidate, and it doesn’t become a defining point of the stories; it’s simply that the applicants are looking for love.
Last week’s episode was incredibly heart-warming and restorative of your belief in mankind. Although there were a few dates featured on the episode, one couple in particular that I really enjoyed watching was Tammy and Gary. Tammy has a facial disfigurement following sudden meningococcal septicaemia, and after her recovery, is now looking to get on with her life and get back into the dating world. Gary and Tammy got on really well, and by the end of the date, he told Tammy and the cameras how beautiful she was and that she had a lovely personality. Hearing this was a huge confidence boost for her, leaving her feeling tremendously happy. “Too often these days it’s about what someone looks like, and I think I’m old enough to see through that now” Gary explains to the camera, sending an important reminder to us all to look past appearances and see what is on the inside. Whilst the dates don’t always go as well as Tammy’s, most experiences leave both daters excited to be meeting people and motivated to carry on to find ‘the one’.
James suffered from autism; whilst some may say his social interactions have been edited and highlighted to be comical, I think it is simply his personality shining through, and in fact highlights his great sense of humour and joviality. As someone with relatives living with mental disabilities, I think it would be lovely to see them find love. We should not shy away from saying that the world of dating and finding a partner is likely to be different for someone with a disability, and The Undateables simply gives them the opportunity to meet likeminded people in a safe and sensitive environment. I watch the show for the same reason I watch First Dates, also on Channel 4; I think it is just wonderful watching people meet and even fall in love!
Image: Evening Standard