James Delingpole James Delingpole

Love at first sight | 31 March 2016

The Channel 4 reality TV show satisfies a primal yearning of telling and repeating the boy-meets-girl story

Now the kids are back for the school holidays, I have a licence to watch complete trash again. No more brooding Scandi dramas (though Follow the Money is shaping up very nicely — plus, as an added bonus, its anti-windfarm theme is really winding up Guardian readers) — just pure televisual soma, such as the masses use to anaesthetise themselves after another thankless day in their veal-fattening pens.

First Dates (C4, Fridays), for example. You wouldn’t want to pig out on more than one episode at a time but it’s about as perfectly formed a TV experience as you’ll get: you laugh, you cry, you gawp, you cringe; you feel uplifted by the stories with happy endings and reassured by the ones without as you realise — hurrah! — there are lots of people out there who are worse off than you.

It’s a reality TV series — now in its sixth season — in which random couples of varying ages and sexual tastes are filmed experiencing their first dates over dinner at a London restaurant (the Paternoster Chop House). Until the moment they meet they know nothing about one another. But usually they have at least one thing very much in common. What’s fun is waiting for the moment when they discover it.

A few episodes ago, I remember, it was pugs. You could see the joy and relief in the couple’s eyes when — after an age of awkward small talk — they discovered their shared obsession. But that was it. After pugs, pugs, pugs and more pugs they realised they’d run out of chat and that pugs alone aren’t quite enough to sustain a relationship.

Unlike Mr Gay Wagner fan in the episode I watched just now. James, his name was, a handsome, Cambridge-educated lawyer very into his opera and very picky about his men.

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