Hi, I’m Vicky. Single, 26, in search of a TV programme that will make me feel better about the fact that at 10pm on Monday night (or indeed any night) I am more than available to sit and watch telly. Rather than go on a date. Which I hate doing, so Channel 4’s new drama series Dates, part of its ‘Mating Season’ (chortle), should be perfect.
It is pretty good, 35 minutes of a basically two handed drama that a few years ago would have been called brave, but audiences are a bit more savvy these days and Bryan Elsley’s new drama feels like a breath of fresh air. It’s a shame C4 have buried it in the schedules somewhat, I always think anything after 10pm is going to be some pornographic gore fest, but this is fairly gently if a little fruity in language.
Dates is on until Thursday this week and each episode will see a new potential couple, although we will sometimes see the same characters. This series has been heavily trailed so we already know that both David and Mia, tonight’s couple, go on dates later in the series with other people so the presumption was this date wouldn’t work out. And it sort of didn’t but then it kind of did.
Let me explain, David, played by Will Mellor, who I never think gets enough credit as an actor, is a lorry driving widower who is attempting internet dating for the first time. He thinks he has been stood up by Celeste, but it transpires that Celeste is actually Mia (Oona Chaplin) and she has been sat at the bar the whole time, decidedly jaded by the experience of modern dating. By virtue of being entirely the opposite of her usual slick type, David charms Mia into having dinner with him. There isn’t anything entirely surprising about the script from here on in, David is lovely and Mia isn’t. She smokes electronic cigarettes which instantly makes me hate her and is a fairly standard spoilt beauty. Men clearly take advantage of her because of the way she looks so she is massively insecure. David has the courage to call her out on it which leads her to the point of tears and eventually, scared to have found someone who will be honest with her, she skips the date. David catches up with her and they share a passionate kiss. She runs into her taxi but then stops and invites him inside, the episode ended with his indecision.
As I said, there wasn’t anything new about plot but there were some gently funny dialogue and good central performances. You learned a lot about the characters in a short space of time and any lapses into exposition was explained by the set up. We also had a great appearance from Madeleine Duggan, the original Lauren Branning from Eastenders. I can’t remember Duggan making much of an impression on me while in the soap, and certainly her performance has been erased from most people’s minds by the extraordinary talents of her successor in the role, Jaqueline Jossa, but Duggan really came into her own here. I don’t think that the same restaurant is chosen each episode which is a shame, Duggan’s waitress was a sweetly sarcastic counterpoint to the awkward date.
Tomorrow’s episode stars television’s golden girl, the lovely Sheridan Smith and Neil Maskell, last scene in Utopia and now hopefully playing a very different character. I’d recommend watching this, if only to ensure Channel 4 continue to commission original drama with innovative casts.
Contributed by Victoria Prior