First Dates

Shove over, Attenborough – for a real glimpse of nature red in tooth and perfectly manicured claw, look no further than Channel 4’s 21st century spin on Blind Date.

The premise – singletons meet for dinner – may be simple, but the results are an anthropologist’s dream. And this week’s third series opener couldn’t have done more to prove the female of the species is more deadly than the male if it had populated the restaurant with praying mantises. (Note to Shoreditch hipsters: this is not an idea for a pop-up business opportunity.)

Almost without exception, the men performed like pathetically grateful seals, while the women toyed with them, tossed them the occasional fish, then kicked them unceremoniously to the kerb.

Take Sav. He seemed like a charming and, if I may say, rather handsome fellow. But his date Kat was in no mood for pleasantries: when she dismissed his opening gambit as ‘the most boring conversation ever’, he thought he might be on safer ground talking fashion. ‘Is it important to you what a guy wears?’ he wondered. ‘Amusingly,’ she said, not at all amusingly, while glaring daggers at his turtleneck sweater, ‘I really don’t think you can go wrong with a good v-neck.’ So that was him told.

Former jockey Scott fared even worse – at the end of their meal, his date Natasha patted him on the head (actually patted him) and said ‘I’m putting you on a train back to your mum’. I half expected her to wipe his face with some spittle.

Then there was Kate, who insisted on ‘rating the fun level’ at frequent intervals throughout her dinner with Liam. From a lowly start, Liam managed to claw his way to a 6, largely based on the bushiness of his beard, which Kate christened ‘Mr Whiskerson’. In retrospect, he may have had a lucky escape.

Between the courting rituals, there were nuggets of wisdom from French maître d’ Fred – sort of like ‘our Graham’ from Blind Date, if he’d been partial to quoting the Romantic Poets. ‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all,’ Fred reminded us.

Possibly. But then Tennyson probably never had to put up with someone laughing at his jumper.

TV extra:


Like the world’s classiest series of I’m A Celebrity, Banished saw the likes of Julian Rhind-Tutt, Myanna Buring and Russell Tovey exiled in the Australian bush for Jimmy McGovern’s turbulent new drama about the first British penal colony in New South Wales. No amount of wigs and Brown Bess muskets could disguise McGovern’s trademark firebrand contempt for abuse of power, but at the heart of the first episode was a touching love story that ended, rather sweetly, with a wedding. Albeit a wedding on a gallows (come on, he hasn’t gone that soft).



The 1780s are obviously bang on trend right now – as indeed are the 1970s, as the Beeb’s second big drama launch this week was an attempt to re-bottle lightning with a new adaptation of Winston Graham’s saga about a Georgian Army officer’s return to his native Cornwall. As you’d expect post-Darcy’s shirt, it’s a lot sexier than the 70s version, with the darkly brooding Aidan Turner well matched by Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza, a grubby urchin who, once scrubbed under the water pump, emerged as a ravishing pre-Raphaelite beauty. The scenery’s gorgeous too.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, March 12 2015

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