Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Undateables

Hallo again.

Truth be told, I'm not one for "soapboxing", especially on here. However, the title of a television programme caught my eye yesterday and it bothered me greatly, so humour me for a few minutes whilst I rant about it and ramble about other stuff that comes to mind.

The programme is called "The Undateables" and it goes out on Tuesday nights, Channel 4. Rather than explaining the concept of it to you myself, here's excerpts from 4's website about it:

"Looking for love can be tricky, but some find it harder than others. Add disability to the equation and it can sometimes seem almost impossible...from a stand-up comedian with Tourettes and a trapeze artist with brittle bones, to a media student with Down's Syndrome, an amateur poet with a learning disability, and a skateboarder with a facial disfigurement, the series follows them as they enter the world of blind dates, matchmakers and speed dating..."The Undateables" explores the realities of looking for love in an image-obsessed world, where too many people make snap judgements based on first impressions - and even consider some to be 'undateable'."

The premise for the show itself isn't a bad one necessarily - it's an interesting concept, it's a programme that could be very beneficial and it's a fresh take on all these ghastly dating shows which seem to be popping up everywhere at the moment. So why that title?

Because it can't just be me, surely? It can't just be me that looks at that title and finds it offensive, ridiculous and unnecessary, and think that the advertisements for the programme: are also thoroughly unhelpful. You've made a programme about single, disabled people and called it "The Undateables"? You've promoted it by highlighting a man's Tourettes and a man clearly floundering in a socially awkward situation? The film "Freaks" came out in 1932 - eighty years on I thought we were past all that. There's just something so horrible about that title - so unnecessarily horrible. I'm not naive - an eye-catching title is what a show needs sometimes, but in this instance it leaves a bitter taste. Before we've even watched the programme, the tone has been set - look at these weirdos! Look at them and laugh! They're "undateable" because they're FREAKS! Funnily enough, the programme itself isn't as bad as I feared it would be, and I'll talk about it in a bit, but the worrying thing for me is how the show is marketed and how that fits in with what we see as "successful" television in this day and age.

Because quite a few shows that pull in big ratings reflect this theme, and they trouble me greatly. I watched "The X Factor" once only to be appalled by what I saw, as a panel of multi-millionaires sniggered at untalented people who have been told constantly by their families that they're talented. I used to like "Britain's Got Talent", as that had an actual point to it rather than simply "earn Simon Cowell a few more quid" but that's going the same way, albeit it doesn't have the laughably awful judge "feuds" that the former has. "I'm A Celebrity"? Isn't it HILARIOUS to see shameless celebrities looking for a route back into showbiz having to endure humiliating tasks? "Big Brother"? An interesting social experiment, the first series. I watched it. But that claim only held for so long, and we need ratings, damnit! Quick, ration their food, encourage fights, increase the bitching! Who goes? YOU decide - based on our extremely dubious editing policy of course!

The worst programme of all is "The Apprentice", a thoroughly hateful sack of shit which I plead with people not to watch every single sodding year. I will never, ever understand how there's people out there who are lapping up a programme that encourages greed, spite, selfishness, hate, blame culture, individualism, the love of money etc. yet then have the gall to complain about "the greedy bankers" who have played with your money. Next economic crisis, don't come running to me with tears in your eyes blaming "capitalism" and "the city", blaming a yuppie cunt in a sharp suit with shit for brains but a nice line in bullshit and self-delusion. Not when 10m of you sit down every Wednesday night to thoroughly enjoy the nightmare that is Thatcher's children squabbling and desperately scrambling over each other to work for a man famous for making technology which is known in the industry as "absolutely fucking shit". I once asked a friend why he watched it, and his reply was "to laugh at all the dick heads on there". Can't help feeling that the joke has worn a bit thin myself, especially when these people are then glorified on prime time television.

That mindless rant brings me back round to "The Undateables". Having been appalled at the title and the adverts, I was going to give it a wide berth, but then changed my mind - if I was going to blog about it I should at the very least watch some of the programme. As I said earlier, it wasn't as hideous as I feared, but the horribly snide "let's laugh at these people" theme still ran through it. I don't know about you, but I find first dates awful enough, never mind a) having Asperger's Syndrome and b) Them being filmed to go along with it. But that was the case here, as we watched a woman walk out on Richard, 37, on what was his first date for twenty years. Sections like this were torturous to watch, and you couldn't help thinking that the makers of this show constantly took the easy way out. Hey, why bother analysing why a perfectly normal man who happens to have Tourettes can't get a date when you can show him struggling to contain his verbal and physical ticks at the end of a long and tiring date instead?

The show did do some things well. Richard, Luke and Penny were given time on screen to show themselves to be decent people who are just a little different from "normal" folk, and the important relationships between Richard and his mother/Penny and her parents were highlighted and handled well. Yet still the uncomfortable aspects of the show lingered in the air, and as it came to an end I was left to think about the show's crass title and these questions - how many viewers watched this solely to laugh at the people involved based on how the show was marketed, and when the fuck is that attitude going to disappear from our society?