Teen First Dates is highly entertaining, but it's missing one vital element

Abby Robinson
·3-min read
Photo credit: Channel 4
Photo credit: Channel 4

From Digital Spy

Tonight's First Dates looked familiar. There was a restaurant, waiters and the world's most famous maître d', Fred Sirieix, was also milling about. But there was one key difference: those looking for love were a lot younger than the usual crowd because the singletons were all teenagers.

Mariam was the youngest at 16, Archie and Eden were in their teen twilight years at 19, and the other hopefuls sat within those parameters, all nervous giggles in their Sunday best.

Just like its predecessor, the contestants gradually thawed over the course of dinner as they sussed out the person sat opposite them, weighing up if their love of Coldplay was a deal-breaker or a burden they'd be willing to bear.

But unlike its predecessor, most had never dated before, let alone been in love or in a relationship.

Photo credit: Channel 4
Photo credit: Channel 4

Given that and their age, there was a risk it could have felt exploitative, mining their awkwardness, hang-ups and inexperience for cheap laughs. But instead, Teen First Dates was warm and good-natured, both mindful of its responsibility to entertain, while also handling their stories and interactions with consideration and care.

The episode touched upon myriad weighty, multilayered themes, from the death of a parent to the destructiveness of hypermasculinity, lingering long enough to make you think or encourage an emotional response. But like the original series, it was also adept at knowing when to move on, easing into lighter, playful, more comedic territory.

Older viewers might also have found themselves thinking that the kids are, actually, alright – shattering that disconnect that so often sets in as the generation gap widens.

Photo credit: Channel 4
Photo credit: Channel 4

But the mocktails and talk of A-Levels weren't the only factors that distinguished it from its parent show.

Many of us tune into First Dates because we want to watch a happily-ever-after blossom before our eyes, bearing witness to the moment that two people meet for the first time and begin the rest of their lives together.

Even the hardest of hearts can't help but melt when we're given a glimpse into their weekend getaway to Brighton, our serotonin levels firing on all cylinders with the flash of an engagement ring.

There is simply nothing more perfect detailed anywhere in the annals of history than Will and Fran's story (look it up and weep if you're not familiar).

Photo credit: Channel 4
Photo credit: Channel 4

That is why we tune in. The awkward encounters, however toe-curlingly brilliant, are not why First Dates has made it to series 16.

But at the end of the teen spin-off, the best that we were given was Dom and Dom, who had both left home to attend university, agreeing to a second date. We didn't find out if it went ahead.

Eden and Archie weren't drawn to one another romantically, while "homework" had taken priority over love for Denzel and Mariam. And despite the promise of more, there was radio silence on what happened between Maddison and Jacob.

That shouldn't particularly come as a surprise given their various ages, but we were holding out for *something more*. In a world fraught with chaos, with so many of us distanced from loved ones, that perfect ending feels more essential than ever. But delightful as Teen First Dates was, that crowd favourite component was sorely missed.

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