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TV review: Dates

Entertainment | Published:

You can get anything online these days. The internet has become the one-stop shop that supermarket bosses can only dream of.

For example, my father needed a replacement battery for his ageing mobile phone and asked me to order one. A quick browse on an Amazonian themed website and a sparkling new source of life for his battered Nokia was dispatched.

Come on dad, get with the programme – I've seen your phone in the Natural History Museum. I mean, even the buttons have hieroglyphics instead of numbers.

Whether it's a phone battery, washing machine, purple polo-shirt in size large or that obscure CD by your fave band, t'interweb has it all – including love.

In the first of a new series, Dates aired on Channel 4 last night.

Classy in its execution, part one of the series – focusing on the modern way people meet – captures perfectly the excitement, awkwardness and attraction often found on that first date.

Conceived by Skins creator Bryan Elsley, Dates promises to be a must-see series. Last night we got to meet David and Mia/Celeste.

Celeste sits at the bar in a swanky London restaurant as her date nervously waits for her to join him.

Feisty and shallow in equal measure, the initial conversation between Celeste, played superbly by predatory Oona Chaplin, proves her to be a perfect foil to the understated – and surprisingly excellent – Will Mellor.

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Showing as part of the channels Mating Season – currently being advertised by a Lothario tortoise – this promises to be the more intellectual strand.

Having suffered her cold comments for a few minutes, Mellor's character David asks: "Are you always this horrible?" as Celeste, who later reveals herself to be Mia, eyes him up and down while puffing on one of those god-awful electronic cigarettes.

Her initial confident exterior is portrayed in a wonderful script that includes such gems as: "Don't wear the tie with the jeans, it makes you look like a Belgian".

Mellor, who is perhaps best known for his Hollyoaks and Two Pints of Lager roles, is certainly maturing as an actor.

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Here, he plays down-to-earth lorry driver David convincingly. Nervous, yet reassuringly knowing exactly who he is and what he wants.

As the date proceeds, his refreshing honesty towards the vampish leading lady clearly strikes a chord. She is something of an ice maiden and more than used to getting her own way.

Yet, the more David challenges her perception of him, the more her frosty exterior melts and she is drawn in.

For those of you reading this of a certain generation, this is as close to a 21st century Brief Encounter as you are likely to come across – only with lashings of gritty reality.

The initial awkwardness of the date soon gives way to heartfelt revelations, from David at least.

The lorry driver tells his life story in a three-minute snapshot with Mia listening intently, her eyes expressing emotion that is rarely as well shown in such dramas. Oona certainly is a talent to behold.

Her fascination turns to nervous laughter when David lets slip that he has four daughters. Nevertheless, he is resolute in filling Mia in with the details of his life.

For David, going online to find love was obviously a difficult step. He is looking for the real thing. Mia may have initially been using the site as a bit of a giggle, but in David she sees something unique. Something compelling.

David accidentally compliments her on a couple of occasions resulting in Mia softening noticeably.

"You'd better not be faking all this integrity," she comments.

"Well does it matter?" David retorts. "Possibly," she replies seductively.

Everything comes to a head when David lets Mia know why his former wife, Tabitha, is no longer in his life.

It's hardly a Cinderella ending, but it does leave possibilities for a relationship to develop.

A more than promising start to a series that has infinite possibilities, and one that tugs at the heartstrings without sentimentality. I am already looking forward to a second date.

Paul Naylor

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