Category Archives: Channel 4’s Mating Season

‘Dates’ (Channel 4) – Episode 9 Review

Tonight we came full circle as we caught up with the couple with whom Dates began: David and Mia.

Within the first few moments of meeting David (Will Mellor) in the pub, it was clear that Mia (Oona Chaplin) was behaving as moody and manipulatively as ever. She claimed that she did not want to meet David’s kids, forcing him to flounce out and be replaced by Stephen (Ben Chaplin), whom Mia had summoned between sips of red wine  and drags of a fake cigarette.

Stephen was clearly still hurt from when Mia stood him up (in the seventh episode), so the conversation wasn’t exactly flowing to begin with. This was in no way helped by Stephen having brought along his teenage son – who was even moodier than Mia. When will we see a polite, courteous teenager on TV, eh?

When Stephen returned with Mia to her flat, they found a very drunken David sitting outside with a cut hand, which Stephen treated with a sanitary towel. After healing David’s hand, however, Stephen’s realisation that he had been deceived and was wasting his time with Mia led him to tell her that he would not be staying. With a kiss on the cheek, he left the apartment, leaving Mia and David alone to drunkenly squabble. During the tiff – which started over her apparently originally saying that she would like to meet David’s four kids – Mia confessed that she had once been a prostitute, which we already knew (but I had admittedly forgotten about) from the third episode.

As a tearful Mia deliberated over David’s ultimatum of carrying on with their relationship or sending him packing, Stephen called his son and offered a trip to the Science Museum, which the whiny sod refused, owing to its poor layout. It seems that the hurt that Stephen caused as a result of his philandering had finally come back to bite him.

Mia soon decided what she wanted to do about herself and David, but actually didn’t choose either of the options which were originally given to her. She proposed that they don’t enter into a serious relationship, but just have ‘more fun’. And David agreed!

What do you think the writer is trying to say about our attitudes to love?

‘A LITTLE DISAPPOINTING’

When I watched the preview for tonight’s episode and saw that David, Mia and Stephen were all going to be featuring, I was ready for a great finale to the series. I expected a feud, complete with tears and heartache and a relationship or two hanging in the balance. We didn’t get that, though. What we did get was generally a little disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong, this episode wasn’t bad, but most of the episodes have been much more than  ‘not bad’ and I feel that we deserved something which was nearer to the standard of the previous episodes. Where was the gripping action? The twist and turns in the plot? I didn’t expect an explosive conclusion but I did want something which flowed well and showed the intricacies of the characters’ relationships – not just an episode with a basic framework of a beginning, a middle and an end, like this!

What has kept me absorbed by Dates is the great chemistry (or lack thereof) between the couples. It was great to either see a good connection crumble or a bad atmosphere blossom into something more hopeful – so where was that in tonight’s episode? I understand that we had already met the three principle characters before (together they had appeared in over half of the episodes in the nine-part series) but surely that would have given more scope for exploration of their relationships! How had David and Mia been getting on since we saw them embrace in Episode Five? Had they been arguing? Had they been going strong? Had it just been a one night stand, or had they formed a more serious bond? Likewise with Stephen’s thoughts towards Mia: how exactly did he feel about her ditching him at the last minute? If he was bothered he didn’t show it, and if he wasn’t, why wasn’t he? Was it because he expected it of her or because he is of a similarly callous nature that he didn’t think much of it?

At the very least I wanted to gauge a reaction from Stephen and David when they found out that they had both been seeing Mia. I’m sure having them confront either each other or Mia would have made for not only a greater viewing experience but a better writing one, too. I bloody love writing arguments and tiffs – it’s so much more interesting than just letting people get on and not think much of others’ revelations.

What I’m trying to say is that this episode could have been so much better. It wasn’t the conclusion that Dates deserved.

 

Despite the odd weak episode (namely Episodes Seven and Nine) Dates has truly been a fantastic series and I’ve loved reviewing it, as usually I could enthuse about it and really try to understand the characters and what made them tick. Clearly others have enjoyed these reviews as much as I have because, within two days of publishing my first review of Dates, the number of visitors to this site had soared from just 50 to 624. So thanks!

Dates may have begun life as part of Channel 4’s Mating Season but I would quite like to see it return. I think there are many more situations and characters to be explored, it would be a shame if Bryan Elsley and his team neglected to do so.

What did you think of Dates? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Feel free to comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

Advertisements

‘Dates’ (Channel 4) – Episode 8 Review

The penultimate episode of Bryan Elsley’s Dates saw Sheridan Smith’s character Jenny, from episode two, on a date with Christian – played by Andrew Scott. I’m not at all jealous.

The pair met at an art gallery and, after an initially uncomfortable atmosphere, seeing a rude sculpture broke the ice and they began to laugh and joke over drinks. Between sips of her drink, Jenny told Christian about how her previous dates had been disastrous (including one potential suitor bringing along his poorly spider, so that he could look after it). Her bitterness over her ex-fiancé leaving her for another women was clearly still present, too, as she made references to her broken heart not only at this point but throughout the episode.

The chat over drinks appeared to go well – so well in fact that, two hours (or ten televised minutes) later they were in bed together – and they weren’t watching telly.

The fact that Jenny was at a low-ebb and wracked with self-doubt was palpable but Christian managed to restore that by assuring her that she truly is special. His compliment soon meant less, however, when he also stated that everyone, including criminals, is special and deserves forgiveness. The couple’s conflicting views on religion and remission soon came to the fore, and it was downhill from there as, while Jenny was searching in Christian’s wardrobes, his wife showed up, demanding to know who she was.

Realising that Christian was still on ‘that site’, his wife, Helen, packed his bags and threw him out, leaving him little option but to beg Jenny to let him stay at her house. Jenny’s kind nature meant that she at first said yes to the grovelling and tearful Christian, but she eventually saw sense and stated that she didn’t need to put up with his ‘bullshit’, before telling him – in no uncertain terms – where to go.

And I silently cheered for her.

BACK ON FORM

After a shaky episode last Wednesday, which was not to the usual standard of Dates, I really hoped that ‘Jenny and Nick’ would have been a return to what we had been used to: highly entertaining and gripping drama. And it was!

As always, Sheridan Smith was simply brilliant and it was worth the three week wait to see her as  the lovely, hard done-by Jenny again. Just like her original appearance, I felt really sorry for Jenny and rooted for her all of the time, desperately hoping (perhaps more than the character was) that, after a catalogue of bad dates, Christian would be the one for her. Sadly, of course, he wasn’t but I was overjoyed when she stood up to him and saw her walk off with a look of satisfaction on her face.

I need to get out more.

Nancy Harris’s superb script followed the Dates trend, which I only actually realised existed tonight. Whenever a date seems to be going badly in this series, it ends well. Similarly, when a date is going well, it more often than not ends badly. I’ve never been the most perceptive of people, hence I only noticed this tonight and it seems to be true for every episode – if a couple have been getting along fine, it’s bound to end in tears. And, sadly, it did for Jenny and Christian.

A DIFFICULT CHARACTER

Jenny was once again a very sympathetic and seemingly vulnerable character but Nancy Harris managed to show her tougher, more no-nonsense side which increased my respect for her.

To reiterate, I must get out more.

Just like Jenny’s first date in the series, the closeted Nick, Christian was quite difficult to get the measure of. His moral preaching and apparent objection to all sin was in stark contrast to the web of lies that he had woven. On the other hand, his strong belief in forgiveness was explained – as a regular, married user of the dating site on which all of the series’ characters met, he obviously needed to be frequently forgiven by his wife!

Despite his theist views contrasting with Jenny’s atheist ones, he seemed ideal for her. It looked like he would finally be able to make her happy and confident in herself again – but he turned out to be a liar and cheat, just like Nick.

Poor Jenny, eh?

 

Thankfully it appears that last Wednesday’s episode was a mere blip and Dates is back to how it was. I loved ‘Jenny and Christian’ and would have liked to have seen more of him in particular: would he manage to worm his way back in with his wife and, if so, would he still continue to use the site? Actually, I would have liked to have seen him even before his date with Jenny: how many times did Helen have to find it in herself to forgive her cheat of a husband, and were there times when he got away with his adultery?

Sadly, tomorrow night will see the last in this series of Dates. It should be a good one, though: it looks like Mia’s lies and mind games are about to catch up with her as she is confronted by both David and Stephen.

Dates concludes tomorrow night 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 – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘Dates’ (Channel 4) – Episode 7 Review

‘Stephen and Mia’ was an utterly misleading title for this episode of Dates, as Ben Chaplin returned as the shady Stephen but Oona Chaplin did not appear in person at all – she was merely heard on the phone for no longer than a minute.

The reason we heard Mia’s voice was because she called Stephen to tell him that she had ‘met someone’ and therefore wouldn’t be coming on a second date with him. So, feeling stood-up and humiliated, Stephen decided to mingle with a conference group and take advantage of the free champagne on offer. To do this, he posed as the apparently high-profile Matthew Binney and, after an initial tiff, managed to woo Heidi Greenholm (Sian Breckin), with whom he swiftly moved to a more dimly-lit and discreet part of the bar, complete with a pool.

After talking about themselves, “Matthew” and the married Heidi went from a swim – and I got the impression that trouble was brewing from the moment that they bombed in together.

Sadly, however, I was wrong as, after the pair kissed and cuddled, the episode ended on a whimper, with Heidi finding out that “Matthew” was in fact Stephen, miraculously managing to get dry, despite their appearing to be no towels to hand, and slapped him.

IT THREATENED BOREDOM’

I have reviewed every episode of Dates and, while I have favourites, I have said that they have all been to a brilliant standard and were thoroughly enjoyable to watch. In fact, last night I wrote of the sixth episode, ‘What else could I have been expecting but another brilliant episode of Dates.’ That was of course before I watched tonight’s instalment, which was such a slow-burner that it threatened boredom.

This episode simply didn’t hook and engage me like the others have, which is a shame as I was really looking forward to it, following the conclusion of last Wednesday’s episode (which saw Mia  and her first date, David, be passionately reunited). I was anxious to discover how Mia would break the news to Stephen – or whether she would just carry on dating him while also secretly sleeping with David. We got no drama, though, and we got no huge revelation. What we did get, on the other hand, was a meagre 38 second phone conversation (yes, I timed it) which seemed like an eleventh hour brainwave on the writer’s part to keep Mia out of the picture and introduce a new character.

Surely it would have been better to have had Mia meet Stephen and be totally unapologetic about her returning to David, therefore exposing her callousness (a trait of hers, the extent of which was intriguing to see) and perhaps showing a more vulnerable side to the normally hardheaded Stephen.

Furthermore, I know I would have preferred to have seen Stephen’s identity be revealed by the real Matthew Binney arriving. Granted, that’s a situation which has been written many times and is perhaps more at home in the land of sitcom but it would have been a damn sight better than what we were given.

THE PITFALLS OF WRITING

I don’t like writing critical reviews. That’s why I prefer to call myself ‘a reviewer’, rather than ‘a critic’, as I think the latter has negative connotations, as if the person it describes watches TV and sets out to only find faults, rather than celebrate its achievements. And that’s exactly what I’ve done with Dates so far: celebrate its achievements. I just can’t help expressing my disappointment with this episode, though.

I know that scriptwriting can be hard. I began a script over two weeks ago, have written around 14 minutes of material and am dreading going back to it as I’m not sure if it’s funny enough, dramatic enough, authentic enough, engaging enough… What is often underestimated is the difficulty of writing – you must constantly have the interests of your plots, subplots, characters and – perhaps most importantly – audience on your mind, and are therefore highly likely to churn out the odd dud episode every now and again. It can happen to even the best writers – I can name episodes of Father Ted, The Royle Family, One Foot in the Grave and even Only Fools and Horses which don’t quite meet the standard to which we as viewers have become accustomed. However, I can’t even use this as an excuse for my disappointment as each episode of Dates has had a different writer, so Bryan Elsley has only had to pen two of the seven episodes so far. I just couldn’t believe that he was responsible for this episode, as in Dates he has created an otherwise fantastic series.

I understood the purpose of the other episodes – they had great conclusions, be they cliffhangers or the beginning or end of a relationship. ‘Stephen and Mia’, though? It slightly baffled me and, for the first time, it crossed my mind to switch over to Big Brother.

I’m looking forward to seeing Sheridan Smith return as Jenny next week, though. Hopefully Nancy Harris’s script will get the series back on track.

Dates will be on Tuesdays and Wednesdays 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 – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘Dates’ (Channel 4) – Episode 6 Review

Fresh Meat co-stars Gemma Chan and Greg McHugh starred in this episode of Dates, which saw lesbian Erica being forced to go on a date with a very forthright Scotsman named Callum.

Of course, we last saw Erica on a date with Kate – which ended with the cliffhanger of Erica’s brother reacting quite badly to the revelation of her sexuality. In fact, he objected so much that we found out in this episode that he had set up a date for her with Callum, who was quite a complex character (more of which later).

Within five minutes of the date beginning, Erica had told Callum that she was gay and did not see the point of wasting any more of his time. However, Callum persuaded her to stay, eat her food and drink an abundance of alcohol – which they both clearly did as Part Two began with them both plainly inebriated.

A deep discussion about human sexuality began, in which Callum, who defined himself as ‘a one’ on the sexuality continuum (‘if one is as straight as you can be and ten is as gay as you can be’), claimed that Erica is in fact bisexual, and tried to convince her that they could have a relationship. This appeared to be the beginning of the end of the niceties as Erica took exception to Callum’s contradiction and began to point out his faults – including arrogance, a trait which he refused to believe he held, prompting him to shout at Erica and attack the restaurant waiter.

The date was salvaged, however, when Erica’s brother arrived and was told in no uncertain terms where he could stick his concern about his sister’s sexuality, and Erica and Callum strode off to ‘get drunk’ – again.

VERY ENTERTAINING’

What else could I have been expecting but another brilliant episode of Dates. It was difficult to know whether to laugh or to cry tonight but Jamie Brittain’s excellent script made Erica and Callum’s date very entertaining to observe.

The chemistry between Gemma Chan and Greg McHugh was palpable and made the episode that much more enjoyable as it meant they were able to show their characters’ complex relationship – which saw a lot of highs, but sadly just as many lows.

COMPLEX CALLUM

It was great to see Erica finally stand up to her brother tonight and gain the strength to defend her sexuality to him, especially after the climax to last week’s episode, in which we had seen her finally become comfortable with her emotions but then be plunged into doubt and guilt again by her sibling’s objections. Although it would have been nice to see her pop up in a future episode, it  doesn’t look like we will and I don’t think we really need to: her story has been told and she has triumphantly found the courage to stick two fingers up to her brother and his traditional Chinese views. And that was the reason for her being in the series.

Meanwhile, this was the first time that we had met Callum, and I found him very difficult to get the measure of. When I watched the episode, I wrote in my notes about him, ‘Very forthright’ and then immediately after, ‘Quite naive?’ I included the question mark because I wasn’t sure whether he would go on to show his naivety, but I sensed that there was a little lurking within him. Even now, having watched the whole episode and weighed up what I thought of him, I’m still not sure whether naive is the right word. I suppose that, like so many of the characters in Dates, he was desperate to find love and discovering that he had been set up on a date with a lesbian just proved another kick in the teeth (and was especially painful as he had apparently only ever been on a date with one woman before). Callum described himself as a ‘beautiful, flawed, multi-faceted, complex individual’ and he was certainly that – with particularly emphasis on the latter adjective.

Despite his tough, harsh and slightly scary exterior, there was undoubtedly a kindness inside of Callum which crept out at certain moments in the episode. When he confronted Erica’s brother on her behalf, for example, he may not have displayed particular kindness to him but it was all done as an act of compassion for Erica as he knew that it would ultimately benefit her and enable her to move on with her life and stop carrying so much ‘gay shame’ (as I recently read it adequately described).

I’m sure Callum would have been an interesting character to develop and perhaps put in other episodes, with other daters. I personally would have been very interested to see whether his extreme anger and mood swings were a result of his frustration about Erica’s sexuality or if they are just in his nature and, if so, would he have the capability to take them even further?

A ‘complex individual’ he certainly was.

I’m struggling to comprehend that, by next Wednesday, Dates will be over. However, I am determined to savour what remains of the series as one written, acted and directed with more precision, care and focus is difficult to come by.

Dates will be on Tuesdays and Wednesdays 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 – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘Dates’ (Channel 4) – Episode 5 Review

We first met David (played by Will Mellor) last week, in the first episode – and he was back tonight and this time on a date with Ellie (Montanna Thompson).

It was immediately clear that Ellie was quite confident, leaping onto David and proceeding to chat endlessly. As it was his birthday, David got to decide the venue – that ending up being American restaurant, Hollywoodland.

The conversation flowed and it appeared that there was a spark between the pair, but then Ellie was recognised by a (seemingly troublesome) friend, who exposed the truth about Ellie’s age – that being that she is not 25, as she told David, but is in fact 19. Understandably, David felt incredibly let  down by Ellie’s omission of this information and did not wish to continue with the date. However, with some persuasion from her, he stayed and they both agreed that their relationship would not progress beyond friendship.

Knowing that there was no romance at risk, David opened up about his failed date with Mia, which is where we first saw him last week. With this in mind, Ellie took the opportunity when David went to the toilet to send an obscene text to Mia, apparently from David. Of course, it appeared that this would have crushed any hopes that David had of trying to form a relationship with Mia. However, the outcome of the night was jaw-droppingly the opposite of this.

I’m certainly looking forward to seeing Mia’s date with Stephen (her current boyfriend) next Wednesday.

EXCELLENT’

Again, another excellent episode of Dates. I was overjoyed to see David back as I really warmed to him when we first saw him, so was hopeful that he would finally find love this time. Which he did – sort of.

We definitely discovered more about David and Mia – both as a couple and individually – than we did on their first date. They appear to be more comfortable with themselves now and know what they are looking for, which is fantastic and I’m anxious to see how their pairing develops during the remainder of the series.

While not strictly about David and Mia, this episode did show that they are well suited as a couple. Now that’s something that I didn’t think I would have written about them. In fact, in my first review of Dates, I wrote:

“There was a fragility to David whereas Mia seldom seemed anything other than bitter and dismissive of others’ feelings, giving her an air of unpleasantness.”

My general opinion was that they were total opposites and, despite what Paula Abdul dictates, they were never going to attract. However, tonight I had to reason that they actually are compatible. Sadly, it seems that their compatibility has only come to the fore because David has reduced himself to Mia’s level by appearing callous and cold – whereas I would have preferred them to have proved themselves to be suited by Mia taking a leaf out of David’s book and being a bit more compassionate. Alas, she didn’t and so, although it saddens me to say it, I have lost some respect for David.

Whereas we’d already met David and got to know him a little, this was the first time Ellie had appeared in Dates. At the beginning of the date, as I said, she was very excitable and desperate to impress. By the end of the night, however, she was slightly more grounded, having dropped her pretence and shown a warmer side to herself.

Despite initially deceiving David, I did feel sorry for Ellie. There was a desperation to her as she seemed to want to appear mature beyond her years and break away from her college image. She sadly just didn’t realise that her natural demeanour was far more attractive and likeable than her fake one. At first, I had reservations about Ellie as I believed that she was going to do exactly what Mia did and let David down, making him think that he may never find love, but I ultimately respected her and would love to see more of her as a character.

 

In this episode, writer Laura Hunter created a very bittersweet date but one which, like all those from the series so far, provided us with engaging and slightly complex characters who prove that the search for love can often be more complicated than it first appears.

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.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘Dates’ (Channel 4) – Episode 4 Review

In tonight’s Dates, Gemma Chan starred as Erica, a young woman who, struggling to confront her sexuality, meets up with Kate (Katie McGrath).

After engaging in small talk, Erica briefly mentioned that her ex-partner was a man – a fact that Kate was immediately irritated by. Having had her lifestyle choice rudely rubbished by her date, Erica decided to flit out of the club but was stopped by Kate, who convinced her to stay and get drunk.

A dance and a kiss later, the pair woke up in bed together, where Erica confessed that she is often economical with the truth and only dates and sleeps with men in order to prevent her family from discovering her sexuality. Once again, this angered Kate, who encouraged Erica to simply say ‘I’m gay’ – after all, ‘it’s just words’. Once Erica had said the words that Kate wanted to hear, they both agreed to get something to eat.

‘TOO GOOD’

Seems like a bit of an anti-climax, doesn’t it? Well, I deliberately haven’t included the ending in my overview just in case you happen to be reading this and haven’t seen this episode yet. The ending is so good that I simply wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone.

The truth is that Dates is just too good for Channel 4 to toss around the schedules like this. We had three episodes last week, and just two this week and next. Bryan Elsley and co’s creations deserve a solid spot which will allow viewers to know exactly when Dates is on, and not have to continually check TV guides for the next instalment. Perhaps it’s down to the fact that each episode has been written by someone different but Dates has been consistently brilliant and even with ‘Erica & Kate’ (which wasn’t my favourite episode so far) I can’t help but enthuse.

Philippa Langdale’s direction on this episode was particularly notable as it truly fulfilled the triad of   attributes which Channel 4 have given to Dates, that being, ‘witty, sexy and emotional’. The episode buzzed with excitement, mirroring that of Erica as she embarks on only her third lesbian encounter, and had a particularly sexy feel to it. The style of filming really added to the tone of the story.

OPPOSITES ATTRACT?

As always, the characters were intriguing, too. Just like on many of the preceding episodes of Dates, we were first met with a couple with contrasting personalities and approaches to the date. From the moment Erica tentatively entered the club and was grabbed by Kate, it was clear that we were going to be watching one quite timid and one confident woman get to know each other.

From very early on, there seemed to be something of a power struggle within Erica and Kate’s relationship: Erica tried to be the strongest by attempting to walk out of the club and leave Kate on her own but it was in fact Kate who was ultimately the dominant force as she convinced her date to stay and have a few more drinks and even all but forced her to confront her true feelings.

Just like Mia, from earlier in the series, Kate had something of a jealous nature which gave her an air of self-importance and impatience. To be honest, I struggled to find the words to describe Kate as she seemed such a complex character – being quite forthright with her opinions by telling Erica in no uncertain terms that she disapproved of her flirtations with bisexuality, yet danced with another man in the hope of making her jealous. Just as I was about to concoct some sort of wordy, deep description of Kate, however, Erica provided me with the perfect phrase: ‘an angry lesbian with a dick complex’. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

 

To reiterate, ‘Erica & Kate’ wasn’t my favourite episode of Dates so far but I am certain that it had the best climax and, like Nick from Episode Two, I am intrigued to find out whether, on her next date, Erica will confront and be open about her sexuality.

Then again, she’ll be on a date with someone called Callum – so it doesn’t seem likely…

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.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

TV Highlights (15th – 21st June)

Here I provide a comprehensive list of the best of the coming week’s TV – with ITV waving goodbye to Granada and Channel 4 saying hello to new couples with their Mating Season.

Saturday 15th June

Goodbye Granadaland

ITV, 8:30pm

At first glance, it may appear this this programme is called Goodbye Granddad, and ITV are paying tribute to the late Clive Dunn. However, it is of course Goodbye Granadaland, in which Manchester comic Peter Kay (pictured, right) takes viewers on a journey through the life of the city’s famous Granada Studios, which he compares to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and which, after over half a century, will soon follow in the footsteps of Television Centre and close its doors for the final time.

Over the years, Granada has been the home of many iconic TV shows, from dramas such as Prime  Suspect, Cracker and, of course, Coronation Street to comedy like Red Dwarf and the ground-breaking Royle Family and also game shows – University Challenge and Countdown, to name just two.

Granada has also been at the forefront of landmark television: the Beatles made their television  debut there in 1962; Woody Allen arrived at the studios three years later to make his only-ever UK TV appearance; and in 2010, the first-ever televised political debate between Brown, Cameron and Clegg was produced there.

With the help of interviews and archive footage, it is the stories behind these productions and many more which Peter will tell over this ninety-minute, one-off show and celebrate the importance and legacy of yet another British television institution which has sadly been lost to Salford’s apparently far more preferable Media City.

Also today: Clare Balding and Huw Edwards present Trooping of the Colour: The Queen’s Birthday Parade (BBC1, 10:30am), highlights of which are on BBC2 at 6:30pm; animated favourites Happy Feet and Despicable Me (ITV, 4:05pm and 6:40pm, respectively); Micro Monsters with David Attenborough begins on Sky1 and Sky 3D at 8:00pm; and AJ Odudu presents Big Brother’s Bit on the Psych, in which psychologists analyse the housemates (Channel 5, 10:10pm) – they’re going to have their work cut out with Sallie and Wolfie, aren’t they..?

Sunday 16th June

Jo Brand’s Great Wall of Comedy

Gold, 7:30pm

I’m obsessed with comedy. If I’m watching a sitcom, panel show or stand-up performance with someone, I usually bore them with some sort of trivia regarding the performer, writer, producer, etc.

Therefore, Jo Brand’s Great Wall of Comedy is ideal for me! Digital channel Gold has developed this panel show, hosted by the award-winning comedienne, in which stars of some of our best-loved comedies will answer questions on the stories behind the laughs and get a chance to showcase their knowledge of all things funny.

The team captains are brilliant, too. Firstly there’s veteran comedy writer Barry Cryer, who penned material for legends such as Frankie Howerd, Tommy Cooper, The Two Ronnies and Morecambe & Wise – and that’s just a few of them! Of course, Cryer is also the man behind Kenny Everett’s infamous Cupid Stunt (whose spoonerism name I very nearly typed incorrectly there). Then there’s Rebecca Front, whom a sitcom is seldom without nowadays. Star of The Thick of It, Grandma’s House, Nighty Night and more recently Psychobitches and Jessica Hynes’s (recently recommissioned) Up the Women, Rebecca is one of our most successful comedy actresses. So I think they both have ample experience to bring to a show like this!

In this first episode, the beans are spilled about sitcoms such as the parodies that were ‘Allo ‘Allo and Ab Fab (the movie of which we’re still waiting for, Jennifer!) and loved-up shows like Gavin & Stacey and John Sullivan’s Just Good Friends.

Also today: Somewhat disappointing sequel St Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold (Channel 4, 6:00pm); Kym Lomas, Dennis Taylor and Rav Wilding are on Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (ITV, 7:00pm); Julia McKenzie is back in Marple (ITV, 8:00pm); fifteenth century-set drama The White Queen begins (BBC1, 9:00pm); and Ray Winstone stars alongside Tamzin Outwaite, John Simm and Charles Dance in Father’s Day (ITV4, 11:15pm), a one-off short drama in aid of ITV’s prostate cancer awareness campaign, Stand By Your Man.

Monday 17th June

The Greatest Shows on Earth

Channel 4, 10:00pm

In this documentary series, actress and writer Daisy Donovan will be travelling the globe and visiting various countries to watch their respective TV hits – no matter how shocking or controversial – to'The Greatest Shows on Earth' - Channel 4, 10:00pm gain an insight into what makes that nation tick.

The first country that Daisy visits is Brazil, where she goes behind the scenes of many shows which objectify women in a way which we may find disgusting but the Brazilians consider to be harmless. For example, she investigates Miss Bum Bum, a talent show which (as you may have guessed)  judges young women purely on their backsides. So, while we enjoy people making arses of themselves on our talent shows, BGT and X Factor, people in Brazil are enjoying actual arses in their own contests.

There’s also Na Mira, which could be best described as a version of Crimewatch – but much, much gorier. In Na Mira, dead bodies are shown on the streets and corpses are pulled up from the ground. Imagine the letters to Points of View if that was broadcast in the UK!

But then imagine the letters in Jeremy Vine’s postbag being doubled – as Na Mira is shown in Brazil at lunchtimes, after kids’ shows.

Also today: A trio of presenters go behind the scenes at Heathrow in Airport Live (BBC2, 8:00pm); Rick Stein’s India (BBC2, 9:00pm); Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall are back to reunite more relatives in Long Lost Family (ITV, 9:00pm); one-off documentary Scientologists at War (Channel 4, 9:00pm); and the tragic story of Tare, who had a life-threatening facial tumour, in Extraordinary People (Channel 5, 9:00pm).

Tuesday 18th June

How to Find Love Online

Channel 4, 10:35pm

Over the course of two episodes, journalist Dawn O’Porter investigates online dating as part of Channel 4’s Mating Season, which explores modern dating in the 21st century.'How to Find Love Online' - Channel 4, 10:35pm

How to Find Love Online follows 25 singletons as they experiment with the relatively fledgling form of internet dating. The series will show the ups and downs on their individual quests for love as well as celebrating the pros to dating websites, while also warning viewers of the perils, too.

Experts and previous online daters will also be available to share their wealth of knowledge.

Also today: Steve Leonard fronts Nature’s Newborns (ITV, 7:30pm); Harry Wallop tells viewers how they can live for free in Something for Nothing (Channel 4, 8:00pm); drama series Frankie draws to a close (BBC1, 9:00pm); documentary series The Route Masters: Running London’s Roads begins (BBC2, 9:00pm); Royal Windsor’s Big Week goes behind the scenes of the annual Royal Windsor Horse Show (ITV, 9:00pm); and Una Healy and Rick Edwards join the fun for the last in the series of Sweat the Small Stuff on BBC3 at 10:00pm – but fans need not worry as a second series has already been commissioned.

Wednesday 19th June

Dates

Channel 4, 10:00pm

Anyone who has read my reviews of Dates (which a lot have, so thank you!) will know that I am mad about this series. I analyse the plots and characters probably far more than is necessary and I always have strong feelings about the characters – whether that’s love or hate.

One of the characters who I loved is back tonight as Will Mellor reprises his role as David (last seen'Dates' - Channel 4, 10:00pm in episode one). This time, however, he has ditched that bitch Mia (see, I told you I feel strongly about it) and is now on a date with Ellie, played by Montana Thompson – who was that bitch Justine in The Story of Tracy Beaker. Why does David always choose the wrong ‘uns?

All of the people who we have met in this series has had some sort of secret hidden away – whether it’s Jenny’s theft, Nick’s homosexuality or Mia’s job as an escort. Ellie is no different as she appears to have lied about her age in order to get on a date with David (it’s Will Mellor: wouldn’t you?) and is more open and honest than he would like her to be.

Also today: Rhys Jones takes action against wildlife crime in Wildlife Patrol (BBC1, 7:30pm); it’s the last in the series of Watchdog on BBC1 at 8:00pm (so it’s the last chance to see Matt Allwright risk getting beaten up by some dodgy builder); Martyn Lawrence Bullard packs members of the public off to Los Angeles for a makeover in Hollywood Me (Channel 4, 8:00pm); perfectly timed to coincide with Channel 4’s Mating Season, the candidates must set up a dating website in The Apprentice (BBC1, 9:00pm); and semi-improvised sitcom Quick Cuts, set in a hair salon, begins on BBC4 at 10:00pm.

Thursday 20th June

First Dates

Channel 4, 9:00pm

Once again, another programme from Channel 4’s Mating Season strand.

First Dates is certainly a unique show. Every week, we will be watching couples going on a blind date to a re'First Dates' - Channel 4, 9:00pmstaurant which has been set-up with discreet cameras in. Every second of the date will be captured on film and some of it will be shown in the programme – whether it goes well or not so well.

However, there’s more. YOU could be dating one of the people you see on screen and may be on the show one week. To have a look at the available mix of singletons and see if anyone stands out, just go to the First Dates website and even you don’t see anyone for you, you can still apply to be on the show and take part in a blind date.

Also today: Cowboy Traders returns to Channel 5 (8:00pm); Dannii Minogue joins the search for Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model (Sky Living, 8:00pm); Flights and Fights: Inside the Low Cost Airlines goes behind the scenes of Ryanair and easyJet (BBC2, 9:00pm); The Girl With 7 Mums tells the story of ten-year-old Ellie Sharp (Channel 5, 9:00pm); and three women confront their sexuality in Bi-Curious Me (Channel 4, 10:00pm).

Friday 21st June

Trojan Donkey

Channel 4, 11:05pm

Apparently, Trojan Donkey ‘takes all that’s good in ‘old style’ covert filming to show how funny life'Torjan Donkey' - Channel 4, 11:05pm can be when people think no one is watching’. Isn’t that just a convoluted way of saying that this is a hidden camera show?

After all, that’s all that this show really appears to be: a hidden camera vehicle. BBC3’s Impractical Jokers had a group of mates daring each other, Off Their Rockers used the more mature performer to play pranks and That Hidden Camera Family on Sky1, while having gone relatively unnoticed, did at least have the niche of a family to do all of its jokes on the public. Trojan Donkey just has three performers pranking people. So despite Channel 4’s somewhat lengthy description, it just looks like a run-of-the-mill hidden camera show.

Tonight, a plumber is called to identify a noise in a toilet and one of the actors goes to a tattoo shop in the hope of getting the whole of the Bible inked onto his body.

Also today: Olympian Greg Rutherford, Crimewatch presenter Kirsty Young and comedy performers Jo Scanlan and Henning Wehn are on Would I Lie To You? (BBC1, 8:30pm); Wild Shepherdess With Kate Humble (BBC2, 9:00pm) sees the Springwatch host help shepherds who work in harsh conditions; we find out who will be the first housemate to leave Britain’s most famous bungalow (apart from Dick & Dom’s, naturally) in Big Brother: Live Eviction (Channel 5, 9:00pm); classic film Ghost (More4, 9:00pm); new documentary series Forensic Firsts (Yesterday, 9:00pm) traces the origins of six key forensic investigative techniques; and Steve Carrell, Chris O’Dowd (husband of How to Find Love Online’s Dawn O’Porter) and Josh Groban are on The Graham Norton Show (BBC1, 10:35pm).

Are you particularly looking forward to any of these shows or is there something else from the world of TV which you want to have your say about? Feel free to comment below or tweet me about this or any other TV show – @UKTVReviewer.

‘Dates’ (Channel 4) – Episode 3 Review

First seen in Monday’s opening episode, Oona Chaplin  reprised her role as the feisty Mia in tonight’s Dates, alongside Ben Chaplin – who often resembled Steve Coogan, which was quite distracting at times.

In my review of the first episode, I wrote, ‘we discovered very little about Mia, therefore making her very difficult to warm to as the only evident character traits were her jealousy and arrogance’. I did speculate, however, that this may change in tonight’s episode and we may find out a little more about her. It turns out that I was right, as within five minutes of the programme beginning it was revealed that Mia is an escort – and she certainly had no qualms about discussing her and Stephen’s previous encounter in intricate detail. After having sex in an alleyway (classy) they escaped the posh restaurant scene, went to a pub and then finally arrived at Stephen’s place of work: the hospital. Here, Mia masqueraded as a nurse and, despite reservations from Stephen, administered antibiotics to an elderly patient. Unfortunately, just as Mia deliberated over whether to continue dating Stephen or go back to David, the patient died, despite efforts from doctors to resuscitate her.

Never mind, though, because Mia claims that it was the fault of neither herself nor Stephen and was more interested in finishing off the night with a peck on the cheek.

 

As always, this was a really enjoyable episode of Dates. Now that I know the episodes aren’t going to have the fastest of paces, I just relish both watching the chemistry between the two partners grow and predicting whether their time together will be successful. I haven’t guessed correctly so far.

Actually, having said that, I may have predicted one correct outcome as I thought that tonight’s date would go  well and it did – sort of. We were left with neither the promise of another meeting nor the confirmation that Mia and Stephen would never be seeing each other again. It was odd but certainly the most successful of the dates so far – and considering this one saw accidental homicide, that’s quite an achievement! After all, the biggest event we’ve seen so far in the series is buggery in the gents’.

 

We may have seen Mia before but she was so changed in this episode that it was as if we were watching a completely different person. She just seemed a lot more relaxed with Stephen than she did with David – presumably because she had pretty much complete control of this situation, whereas she did not on Monday. Her control may have contributed to her more candid nature in this episode, as she appeared to be concealing a secret when we first saw her, but tonight that secret was revealed: she’s a prostitute. Oh, sorry, ‘escort’.

Mia’s candid nature did not mean she was any more likeable, though. Her blasé attitude to her aforementioned job and frivolity in the hospital, which includes her willingness to risk a patient’s life by injecting them with drugs, was despicable, just as her treatment of David was on Monday.

Stephen wasn’t much better, though. Initially he seemed quite the talkative, cocky charmer but was soon silenced by Mia recognising him from when he had paid her for sex some time ago. He showed an utter lack of professionalism when he allowed his date to treat a frail patient but got his comeuppance in some way when he failed to revive her (the patient, not Mia…).

In the previous two episodes we’ve only seen couples who were incompatible – one was always nervous and kind while the other was secretive and deceptive. However, Stephen and Mia are well matched: they both have related secrets and a reckless nature which can often hurt others. Oh, and they’re not particularly likeable, which is important. Their past could have made their date somewhat awkward and prevented them from getting to know each other properly but it ended up having the opposite effect as they gelled better and quicker than the couples we’ve seen so far in the series.

I feel I should say that I’m aware that I take Dates a little too seriously and perhaps analyse it so meticulously that it could appear that I think it’s real. For the record, I don’t – I just bloody love it.

Ben Schniffer’s script made for another great episode in what is shaping up to be a great series. I’m disappointed that Mia and Stephen’s story has brought us a third of the way through this series of Dates but am looking forward to watching the other episodes (despite the fact that we have to wait until next Tuesday). In fact, my enjoyment of Dates has encouraged me to watch some more programmes related to Channel 4’s Mating Season, such as Dawn O’Porter’s How to Find Love Online (next Tuesday) and documentary series First Dates (next Thursday). So if I treat these fictional first dates as if they’re real, God knows what I’ll make of genuine ones.

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.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘Dates’ (Channel 4) – Episode 2 Review

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.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘Dates’ (Channel 4) Review

Kicking off Channel 4’s Mating Season (‘a series of programmes on modern dating in the 21st century’) is Dates, a series of nine one-off dramas, each episode of which will see two singletons moving a step further on their quest for love.

STOOD UP?

Tonight’s opening episode, ‘David and Mia’, began with David (Will Mellor) sitting alone at a table in a restaurant, suspecting that he had been stood up by Celeste, the woman he met on a dating website. However,  it transpires that Celeste (Oona Chaplin) saw David in the flesh and decided against proceeding with the date. She soon changes her mind, though, when she leaves the restaurant but spots David flirting with a waitress, prompting her to storm back in and reprimand him. Her jealousy having been exposed, she decides to sit and talk with her date and over the course of the dinner, we discover that Celeste’s real name is Mia and David, a trucker from Yorkshire, is a widower, having married his childhood sweetheart, to whom he has four children.

Sadly, despite a kiss, the evening ends badly with Mia driving off in a taxi and leaving David maddened in the street.

In the words of Lysander, the course of true love never did run smooth.

BRILLIANT’

I thought Dates was brilliant it may have been a slow burner but the pace allowed us to gauge the time that it took for David and Mia’s exchange to finally become amicable, and perhaps even tinged with fondness.

The two-hander style of the episode, and the series as a whole, works very well as it means that we focus only on these two characters and understand their history and emotions more. Even when a third person comes in (such as the waitress or a friend on the phone) they act as foils for the protagonists’ chemistry – or lack of, as was often the case with David and Mia.

CONFLICTING PERSONALITIES

It was interesting to watch these two characters’ attitudes change as their date progressed. At the beginning of the episode we met two characters who were conceited and both had palpable reservations about the date but gradually became more humble – before reverting to being conceited again.

The juxtaposition of David and Mia is what made Dates particularly enjoyable. While he was just a nervous first-timer, she was a jealous and arrogant regular on the dating scene. Also, the readiness with which they revealed information about themselves provided a contrast between them both: David managed to find it in himself to divulge his marriage to his late, and clearly missed, wife but we discovered very little about Mia, therefore making her very difficult to warm to as the only evident character traits were her aforementioned jealousy and arrogance. This may change, however, when she returns with a new date in Wednesday’s episode.

There was a fragility to David – his nerves about returning to dating, and using a relatively new method, were obvious and made him endearing and sympathetic. Mia on the other hand seldom seemed anything other than bitter and dismissive of others’ feelings, giving her an air of unpleasantness.

The clashing of David and Mia’s personalities made it somewhat inevitable that their time together would end badly and I have to say that I admire Bryan Elsley for not following the conventions of romantic drama and allowing the two central characters to ‘live happily ever after’, as it were. Audiences are used to relationships in love stories being tumultuous initially, but working out rather well in the end. Elsley wisely doesn’t do this – firstly because it would be unauthentic but also because it would make for quite a boring series. Imagine sitting down for the next few weeks and watching previously feuding couples becoming all loved-up just before the credits roll. It would be sickening, wouldn’t it? Of course, we expect some of the dates to go well but we wouldn’t want to watch one night after night, would we?

I cannot wait to watch the rest of Dates.  Bryan Elsley’s decision to have episodes feature new and familiar characters on their various dates is excellent and one which will provide a great deal of both happiness and sadness over the coming weeks.

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.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.