The Undateables: Series 1 Revisited – Carolyne, Luke, Shaine


Feel like an intense staring competition with poet Shaine? Now’s the time, but I warn you, Shaine will win!

As of 01:32 this morning…

If you’re not a blogger, allow me to let you into a freaky little secret that more or less keeps the global blogging community alive: as good as it feels when you write something you’re at least mildly happy with other people seeing, it can often be boring as hell to actually produce these things. Sometimes, it seems like the happier you are with the finished result, the more bored, irritated and frustrated you had to be to get to that end point. You may not be able to tell, but this blog post, being written in the middle of the night while I really want to be asleep, is a prime example of that fact.

There are also great things about writing a blog, though.

One of the best things about clogging-up the world-wide-web with yet more content that hardly anyone on Earth cares about is seeing how people out there on the internet discovered your site. When it’s a hard week, and you log into your WordPress account and discover that someone genuinely found your writings by typing in funny looking ferret or did Margaret Thatcher eva have sex or is it all jus lies?[sic], it can’t help but make you smile. Sometimes it even makes you Google ferrets, or ponder what it must have been like to be the shocked and baffled endorphins rushing through Margaret Thatcher’s nether-regions on that fateful day (or, as some have alleged, days). It also reminds you that, as serious as life can be sometimes, there are plenty of information-seeking weirdos out there ready to balance things out with a bit of classic hard-to-decipher madness. Fortunately, most of the time there are enough funny, weird or just plain hilarious terms that they just about outweigh the disturbing ones that almost make you cry or want to call the police (for example: can a blogger see who I am on there search terms cos I no like it I wanna be anonymos [sic] and How 2 make explosives do I need a degree in chemostry top do this or is Fight Club human fat bomb thing actully for real? [sic]). For the other times, there is, luckily, the Terry’s Chocolate Orange. That usually calms me down. I haven’t called the police yet.

Speaking of which – the search terms, not Terry’s, sadly – one thing which people really seem to care about is what happened to the subjects of interest from Series 1 of The Undateables. Sam, Haydn, Luke and Caroline have all been extremely sought-after on my blog, and when I found out that Channel 4 were to end Series 2 with a big-old catch-up of what they’d all been up to over the past year, I knew I wasn’t the only one who’d be thrilled. Somewhere out there, people were ready to type strange stuff into search engines, and do so they would. Sometimes, I dread to think what tomorrow will bring (note: it hasn’t brought anything terrifying yet, but it probably will soon).

Anyway, if there’s one other thing that the world wants to know about – really really wants to know about, right here, right now – it’s what’s going on with Richard’s legendary muscles of desire that never cease to amaze, usually from across the table. Richard, who up until the first series had been on just a single date in a full twenty years, I should say. Well, in this first look at Sam, Carolyne and Mr Muscle himself, we found out on more than one occasion. In fact, if you had a quid for every time that Richard flexed his muscles, you’d have enough to smash a Terry’s Chocolate Orange to pieces with. Asperger afflicted Richard is still exhibiting them at every possible turn with considerable enthusiasm, it transpires, and he’s still out there looking for love in a big way, too…just as long as it’s within his highly specific 8-mile radius. An extra 3 miles might not seem like much to you and I – in Series 1 he doggedly protested that he wouldn’t go further than a five-mile radius to find true love – but for Richard, amusing as it first appears, it’s a serious and literal mile-stone that cannot be underestimated. Imagine putting on a thong when you’ve only ever been used to wearing entire-arse-covering boxer’s, because that’s the kind of debilitating exposed change that we’re talking about here. Even more so, for Richard and his muscles, it’s psychologically more serious than just getting a simple thong-based rash.

Watching Richard flex repeatedly as he went out of his comfort-zone to visit new Russian date Anna, I couldn’t help but think that a lot of controversy surrounding this show from the very beginning could have been alleviated – or at least somewhat avoided – had the programme makers considered the general perception of disabilities a bit more. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s solely a dating show about people with learning disabilities and individuals with physical disadvantages, that much is blatantly obvious, but one theme which has continually been left out – in both series – is any real education about the conditions themselves. Something which you can Google, but let’s be honest, most people are too busy looking for Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian and simply can’t be arsed with that. In this show, for example, we were told once again that Carolyne – blonde, pretty, bubbly, strikingly normal in her wants, needs and desires – became paralyzed following the freak bursting of a blood-vessel in her spine. From that day on, she was in a wheelchair, and without her childhood sweetheart. Yet once again that was where it stopped, on the explanation front, and, maybe it’s just me, but through the partially open window, I was sure I could hear faint cries on the wind of How did that happen? Could that happen to me? A little information about the conditions, on more than just a basic level, could have helped no end, I think, as is the enormous influence produced by TV. Instead of coming to the wrong conclusion that Luke was totally crazy, with his ticks and “Wow, nice tits!”, I can’t help but feel that people might have got more on board, had that been the case. That they might have begun to realise, much earlier, just how difficult dating is for these people. How brave they really are. All that stuff. Because it’s hard — really, really bloody hard.

Which is why it was good to go back to Series 1. Having been exposed to another set of episodes this year, I’m sure people were more comfortable with the format, and this allowed them to revisit the characters from Series 1 with a different perspective on things.

Leaving behind my issues with this episode – I’m going to only briefly mention now that I thought there was too much footage taken from the previous Series 1 shows, and not enough recent footage, which should really have taken prominence – I will say that there wasn’t enough about Carolyne. I needed to know much more than I got, and even though Richard gave us some interesting moments talking with his date about the Chernobyl disaster, more about Carolyne was sorely missing. For a brief few minutes, we learned that Carolyne had met Dean online and they had seriously hit it off. Then again, missing some things out is inevitable, surely, and balancing such things as this is a difficult task within the confines of a one-hour show that is fundamentally designed not to educate, but to entertain and rake in the viewers. Fortunately, there was plenty of hope to go around with the other stars of the show. For example, Luke went on a date with a nice student nurse who went by the name of “Lucy”. Yes, he was ticking like mad to begin with, but after a while things calmed down and Luke’s natural confidence began to run its natural course. And what a decent bloke Luke came across as. Decent, kind, loving, caring, and with enough bollocks to stand up in a room full of people and do his gags. Come to think of it, all those things that make you feel slightly nauseous when you see them written on a screen, yet we are all universally searching for. Once again the normality of people with afflictions came boldly through. Luke just wanted a wife and a kid and a home, and it was heartwarming. I damn well hope he gets it all.

As for Sam, things were a slightly different story, and, for him, this episode took us on a brutal ride through a range of emotions that I hadn’t been anticipating. First things were going amazingly well with Jolene from Series 1, then they were going so well that Sam was considering the idea of marriage, then things were turning to big shit, and fast, and you could feel his pain. In fact, it may have just been me, but I literally felt like I had trod in shit as I watched all this unfold. What a nightmare: Jolene turned around and texted him, saying she couldn’t give him what he was looking for, and superdad Malcolm was there to pick up the pieces. Ouch. Watching Sam sit there on his bed, trying to absorb this heavy information, was painful, uncomfortable viewing. I haven’t looked at Twitter yet, but I have a funny feeling that Jolene won’t be as popular as she was before.

Another thing: was I the only one who was surprised by how well Shaine the poet was doing? Somehow I doubt it. I can’t be, I just can’t be. He was doing well by anyone’s standards. There I sat, drinking my over-priced decaffeinated tea, in my writer’s hovel, taking in the facts, yet also somehow unable to take them in because they were so flippin’ outrageous: since Series 1 had aired, Shaine had achieved more than most 32-year-old could ever hope to accomplish. The loveable romantic bastard had only gone and got himself a book deal, a nationwide tour and a regular gig at his local Bournemouth pub where he recites poetry! Shaine might have learning disabilities, but don’t think for a second that people like this can’t do just as good as anyone else. And if it can be that good with life, then why not with relationships? As we watched Shaine slick his hair back with gel, just like an extra from Reservoir Dogs, the nation fell for his charm. Somewhere out there, I bet there’s a female poet just ready and waiting…

But let’s not leave Luke out from all the success, of course. Carolyne might’ve found herself a bloke and Sam might have shaken off his break-up with enviable finesse, but Luke had done well for himself, too. Not to be deterred, the Merseyside stand-up had also experienced his fair share of luck over the past year. Jonny Vegas had only gone and become a fan, inviting him up on stage at one of his gigs.

The Undateables may have become virtual pets to the nation, with thousands of people on Twitter labelling them cute and another few thousand not quite getting it, but if the statistics are anything to go by, people are really interested. And that’s what we need. The more interest, the better. When you think about it, Channel 4 took a great big risk and did pretty well with it, even if this latest episode fell short a bit by relying too much on the original footage. Not bad for a show that many people proclaimed hideous in the beginning, before rapidly changing their tunes.

Next week it’s the turn of Penny, Justin and Haydn. Bring it on. I want to know if Penny’s got herself a six-foot fireman!