Channel 4’s The Undateables Review – the critics are missing the point!

by Matt D

Channel 4’s latest major series The Undateables attracted some controversy before it aired, as the title seemed to suggest that those with disabilities are simply unattractive to the opposite sex.

Certainly after watching the programme I feel these critics are missing the point somewhat, as there are a vast number of people who don’t have disabilities but still struggle to find love, however the three subjects in the first episode of The Undateables just have it a bit tougher than the rest of us.

Take the case of 23 year old Luke, an aspiring stand-up comic who unfortunately suffers from Tourette Syndrome which makes it harder to talk to girls due to his physical tics and compulsive swearing. Luke claims that he finds it easier to perform his stand-up routine in front of thousands of people than he does talking to one girl and when the interviewer asks him if his condition prevents him from talking to girls, he replies that it doesn’t help matters. I feel this is the theme of The Undateables, that most people find it scary to go on a date but when you also have a condition that makes you different from others this knocks your confidence a lot more.

This is also the case for 37 year radio enthusiast Richard who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition which makes him struggle during stressful situations such as first dates. The qualities that Richard is looking for a patient partner who is understanding, not too bossy and more importantly blonde. He is also looking for an older woman, as he feels more comfortable with mature ladies, because he has such a strong bond with his mother especially since his father died when Richard was young. Richard’s mother Liz also hopes that he will be able to find love as she finds being his only companion tiring and wants to find herself a new relationship also. As we are constantly told Richard had only been on one date in the last twenty years, which only lasted twenty minutes before she gave up and left.

The third of this week’s bunch is Penny, a 23 year old trainee primary school teacher who also works as an aerial artist when she isn’t studying. Penny has fragile bones which are constantly fracturing and this means she often has to use a wheelchair. In addition she’s also just over three feet tall. Despite her height Kerry’s ideal man is over 6 foot and preferably would also be a policeman as she likes the uniform. Unlike the two boys on The Undateables I feel that Kerry’s main aim for wanting a date was to be like her friends, who have all been in long-term relationships, so she can relate to their dating experiences. All three join dating agency Searchmate, who according to the voice-over are now taking clients with conditions similar to those featured, with them all having interviews with date fixer Sarah to tell her what they’re looking for. Someone more cynical than myself would see this programme as a bit of an advert for Searchmate, who are able to find dates for all three so swiftly, but for me it was probably the easiest way that our trio could find love.

Richard’s first date with Dawn is seemingly going swimmingly, as they bond over their shared love of 1980s music and the close relationships they share with their mothers. However later on in the date Richard starts pinching chips off Dawn’s plate, before starting to devour her left-overs which is the last straw for her and she leaves claiming that the date was a flop. He has better luck with his second match Patricia, a French lady who he struggles to understand at first but once he flexes his muscles for her she finds him utterly charming. Luke meanwhile travels to London to meet up with Lucy, a receptionist with whom it seems he has instant chemistry, as they chat away during their bowling date. It is evident that Luke feels comfortable around Lucy as, although he has several physical tics, he is able to keep the swearing at bay, only briefly shouting out the word slut to which his companion laughs off. They plan a second date, to which Lucy is extremely late for meaning that Luke’s nervous tics start to take over but once she arrives he is fine once again. Finally Penny is matched with Max, who also uses a wheelchair due to his cerebral palsy. It seems that their date goes fine but at the same time the conversation seems stilted with her holding back and him talking too much. At the end of the date he is much more keen on her and she decides it is better to let him down gently than to keep him hanging on.

By the end of the episode, though not all have found love, all three have got what they wanted from their dating experiences. Penny has been on the date that she can now chat to her friends about and she has also learnt how hard it is to reject someone who likes you so much. Richard’s date with Patricia was the first one that has ever had a conclusion but again he chooses not to see her while worrying that he may have knocked her confidence. It is only Luke who is seemingly onto a promising relationship with Lucy and if you watched the programme then you could see right from the start that this pair instantly connected.

I feel that those that criticised the show didn’t really watch it, as after a while you forget that these people have disabilities, and actually that aspect of it was quite eye opening. By the end of the episode I had connected with all three so much that I wanted to find out if either Richard or Penny had found love since or if Luke and Lucy were still together and I hope that at the end of the series we find how all three are doing because they were all such great characters. It is true that Channel 4 could’ve picked a better title for this series however this was a sensitively handled portrayal of people looking for love who, due to their conditions, just find it a little bit harder than the rest of us.