Tonight’s episode of Dates (the well-received brainchild of Skins creator Bryan Elsley) featured Jenny and Nick – two singletons who, after seeing each other’s profiles online, agreed to meet in a restaurant. After an awkward initial exchange, primary school teacher Jenny (Sheridan Smith) and rich boy Nick (Neil Maskell) began to tell each other about themselves. It seemed that everything would go well but there was definitely something needy and untoward about Nick. This was explained, to a degree, when Jenny spied him in the toilets, having sex with the waiter (played by Ryan Sampson). However, he received his just desserts when, as payback for having been deceived, Jenny stole his wallet and disappeared home, leaving him determined that the waiter had taken his money.
‘COMPLEX AND INTRIGUING’
I really enjoyed yesterday’s episode, starring Will Mellor and Oona Chaplin as David and Mia, and I have to say that I didn’t find Jenny and Nick to be as immediately engaging as them. I did think, however, that the story of tonight’s couple proved to be more complex and ultimately intriguing. There were more lies and secret pasts which were alluded to throughout the second episode and I genuinely felt Jenny’s pain when she discovered her date in the toilets, which is testament not only to Nancy Harris’s writing but Charles Sturridge’s direction and Sheridan Smith’s acting.
While there were some similarities to last night’s couple, Jenny and Nick were something of a contrast to David and Mia, as tonight the female was loveable while the male was very reserved and complex – whereas those traits were reversed in the first episode.
It was palpable that Jenny still had feelings for her ex-fiancé, who she regularly mentioned when with Nick, and had been lonely ever since their break-up, meaning she relished the opportunity to have someone listen to her. That’s not to say that Sheridan Smith overplayed her character and forced the audience to feel sorry for her – on the contrary, she allowed these emotions to remain in the subtext for us to unearth ourselves. The fact that we were on Jenny’s side for pretty much the entire episode meant that when she stole her date’s wallet, we, or I at least, felt a sense of personal victory – as if Nick had deceived me and brutally crushed my own hopes of rekindled happiness and companionship.
Nick only seemed such a bastard, however, because we had championed Jenny. He was only this way because he had let our heroine down. If he existed (which, contrary to what my analysis may suggest, I am well aware he does not) I expect that many would see him as an unfortunately confused man – someone who tries to suppress his homosexuality by prematurely pouncing on and kissing Jenny, and then proceeding to espouse homophobia about the “bender” he had had sex with just five minutes previously.
But he’s not real, so therefore he’s still a bastard.
Like I said, tonight’s Dates didn’t grip me from the beginning quite in the same way that David and Mia’s story did last night. However, I ultimately enjoyed that of Jenny and Nick more and am anxious to watch their next dates – to see if the former will get the companion she so clearly wants and if the latter will confront his true feelings.
Dates will be on over the next few weeks at 10:00pm on Channel 4
What did you think of Dates? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Feel free to comment below or tweet me about this or any other TV show – @UKTVReviewer.
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