Saturday 16 December 2017

Does First Dates successfully transfer from UK to Ireland? Yeah, it does, kind of

* First Dates Ireland, RTE 2
* The Many Lives of Kevin McGeever, RTE One

Looking for love: 'First Dates Ireland' participant Federica featured in the first episode of the new RTE show.
Looking for love: 'First Dates Ireland' participant Federica featured in the first episode of the new RTE show.
First Dates Ireland participant Federica
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

What do you look for in a date? Even more pertinently, what do you look for on a first date? That's a question which has baffled Irish men and women for years because we don't really have a first-date culture. Let's put it this way, it's not uncommon to hear American women openly discuss the amount of first dates they endure on a weekly basis, as if it were job interview.

In Ireland? Well, most of us know the reality - you meet someone you like in a pub, get talking, maybe have a snog or two on the way to the chipper for a spice bag and before you realise what's happening, you're in a relationship.

Maybe there's something inherently disorganised in the Irish psyche. But we just don't really have the kind of dating culture in this country that exists in the two larger neighbours on either side of us. So the big question about RTE's latest rip off, sorry, import, of successful British franchise, First Dates, was whether the concept would successfully transfer over here.

And - I'm almost ashamed to be writing this - the answer is... yeah, yeah it does. Kind of.

The success of First Dates in England is largely down to the fact that this isn't one of those shows designed to ritually humiliate the participants so much that they never leave their house again.

In fact, it has even been described by some TV critics as 'heart-warming', although most TV critics don't actually have a heart, so that might be moot.

One of the more grating obsessions with Irish reality TV is the pretence that the whole thing is based around someone's 'journey', or we see them learning stuff, or there is some other utterly spurious facade masquerading as human interest programming when all the punters really want is fireworks and degradation.

There was no degradation on last night's first episode, and precious little fireworks. But there was something undeniably and inexplicably charming about most of the participants.

One exception to the general levels of Very Irish Affability was South African model, Federica, who both looked and behaved rather like former Big Brother irritant Makosi, even down to stony assertion that the only reason people don't like her is because they are "intimidated" by her.

In fairness to her Donegal date, Lee, who looked like Paul O'Connell and sounded like Pearse Doherty, he wasn't intimidated, just bored. And increasingly baffled.

As Federica made a big deal about looking for hand sanitiser - people with no personality often develop a quirk they think makes them interesting, it doesn't - Lee looked for the exit and you knew the jig was up when, asked her age, he guessed in that very Irish way: "29? No? Okay, maybe 30?"

Jesus, Lee did your mammy never tell you that you always go lower when guessing a woman's age?

The 25-year-old Federica - emphasised repeatedly through gritted teeth - was less than gruntled and, frankly, the viewer couldn't blame either party for never wanting to see the other ever again.

There were some interesting insights for the average bloke. According to journalism student, Amy, she insults people when she flirts with them. Does this mean that whenever a woman is ripping you to shreds she really likes you? Wow, I had no idea I was so popular, if that's the case.

The stand-out couple were Simon and Tynan, who were so physically similar they could have been on a different show about reuniting long lost brothers. They seemed the perfect match, but frankly, when Tynan announced that he loved to cook, had spent a few years in cookery school and was also a qualified masseuse, I came damn near to falling for him myself.

The producers will tell you that the participants are just normal people looking for love. They're not, of course. Normal people don't endure a blind date with 17 cameras around them unless they want to be on telly.

But they seemed like - mostly - nice people and none of the couples monopolised the show, which is always a relief.

In an episode that had more than its fair share of one-liners, I was struck by Federica's assertion that love is: "That feeling you get when you've never had it before."

Sorry, luv. That sounds more like the shellfish.

If First Dates was rather endearing, The Many Lives Of Kevin McGeever was simply odd.

In fact, it was an extremely odd programme about an extremely odd story. McGeever was the runaway millionaire who faked his own kidnapping to get away from his creditors. As you do.

In a tale that encompassed farce, tragedy and more than its fair share of bat-shit craziness, it was hard to feel much sympathy for some of those he managed to bilk. Apart from anything else, McGeever was obviously an eejit. Hailing from Mayo but speaking like a Yank, he was what we used to call a complete bogey. But he drove hummers ("Ah, he loved a good hummer," said one contributor, apparently unaware of the double entendre), so people were impressed and wanted to give him all their money.

But the news that two men apparently kidnapped a friend of the crooked developer was never explored. Who were they? Did they even exist? And again - why would anyone hand their money over to such an obvious chancer?

Do they buy time share packages when on holiday?

Irish Independent

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