One look at The Undateables and it would be easy to assume that it’s a lurid freakshow designed to exploit and ridicule its vulnerable protagonists. The very idea is offensive, but The Undateables is compelling viewing nonetheless. Maybe it’s because it’s sympathetic and the people it features so very likeable – such as 23 year-old comic Luke, who has Tourette’s, who would have no trouble getting a girl if he didn’t shout obscenities.
The Undateables follows each misfit – people with disfigurements and special needs – as they join dating agencies and look for love. Those with learning difficulties are chaperoned on dates, and coached by patient parents on how to ask, “Will you be my girlfriend?”
It’s the agonising pause after the question is asked that is the killer, and that’s when the appeal of the show becomes apparent: through the magnifying lens of conditions that might make a person seem “undateable”, we see our own insecurities writ large. Are we too ugly or stupid or awkward for love?
I hated dating, which isn’t helped by the lack of dating culture here – better just to get your cutest friend drunk and see what happens. The two or three dates I ever went on were easily as awkward as anything here, and so I found myself desperately rooting for each person to find happiness. Pretty Carolyne, 29, who was paralysed when a blood vessel burst; charismatic Hadyn, 24, disfigured from Crouzon Syndrome; loveable actor Sam, who has Down’s Syndrome … they each need and deserve love, and I hope that they find it.
Kali, aged 20, has a development-impairing genetic disorder, and decides on her date that the man isn’t all she’s looking for. Moments earlier, she was fawning all over him but then she abruptly stops and turns away – a caricature of every bad date in history.
I couldn’t help it. I laughed.
I hope her next date will be better.