First Dates (again)

Back for a sixth series, First Dates remains the most revealing natural history show on TV. I mean, who needs Attenborough explaining the mating rituals of flatworms (bottom line: not awfully sexy) when you can watch actual human singletons going about their courtly business over a confit of pork cheek?

This week’s couples included Becky and Lewis. Becky was a burlesque performer, while Lewis introduced himself with the dread words ‘wannabe funnyman’. The tone was set when he gallantly made the effort to suggest her day job as a property manager ‘sounds quite impressive’. ‘I do admin for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers,’ he offered in return. ‘See that is boring,’ she replied. Ouch.

They hadn’t even reached dessert before Becky was on her phone in the toilets, describing Lewis’s shortcomings to a friend. In the post-prandial post-mortem, she told him: ‘I just think I need someone a bit more… you know, manly.’ Ouch. Again.

Italian designer Paulo fared even worse. True, he didn’t exactly help himself by turning up in white jeans – you’re not in Milan now, sonny – but you got the impression Ross Poldark could have ridden in with his shirt off and event planner Gemma would still have given him short shrift. After an hour of being torn to shreds during a series of awkward conversational cul-de-sacs, Paulo concluded: ‘Doesn’t go very well this date, no?’ No, Paulo. It doesn’t.

‘The best thing about Paulo is he allowed me to make fun of him,’ concluded Gemma. ‘He probably thinks I’m a right cow.’ Why, the very idea!

The best hope of romance seemed to be Uma and Ruth – who talked so intently, they failed to notice it was 11.20pm and the restaurant was closing – and Sonia and Ashley.

Despite looking like a tattooed kickboxing champion, Ashley was a scientist, able not only to compliment his date’s green eyes, but point out they’re ‘a genetic mutation’.

A fast worker, Ashley was already contemplating marriage while they were still on their starter. ‘We might travel back to Newcastle tonight and stop off in Gretna Green,’ he declared, confidently – thus proving that a) romance isn’t dead and b) his science is stronger than his geography.

TV extra:


Happy Valley 

When Catherine Cawood declares it’s been ‘a s*** week’, you know things are bad. This, after all, is a woman who started this series having to bash a sheep’s brains in with a brick – and things went rapidly downhill from there.

While this second run may have stretched credibility (the Calder Valley’s murder rate must be rivalling Midsomer by now), Sally Wainwright’s drama – and Sarah Lancashire’s performance ­– remain in a class all of their own.

I am worried Catherine’s going to be sleeping in that conservatory for the rest of her life, though.


Inside Obama’s White House

The opening instalment of this compelling four-part documentary focused on Barack Obama’s first 100 days in ‘power’, when the best hope for genuine political change in a generation was swiftly derailed by the financial crisis, knocking the President’s reform programme off course before he’d even taken the Oath of Office.

Watching the Yes We Can candidate run into the brick wall of Washington’s rigid No You Can’t culture was profoundly depressing and, for viewers staring down the barrel of a possible Trump presidency, not a little heartbreaking.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, March 17 2016

(c) Waitrose Weekend