Graeme Robertson for the Guardian As marketing moves go, Channel 4 has hit a near impressive level of crass in its promotion of The Undateables, a series following people with disabilities in their quest for love. This is a title that looks bad on paper but even worse when put on a billboard , where towering images of people with a facial disfigurement or a wheelchair have the title Undateable emblazoned next to them.
You do wonder why Channel 4 didn't go the whole hog and just use the title "You're weird and no one wants to have sex with you".. But if The Undateables seems an offensive title for a show, then that was probably the aim: Disabled people are hardly the first subjects to fall victim to such calculations My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding remains a lesson in avoiding nuance nor are Channel 4 the only station to have done the sums BBC Three is now in titling territory that's almost beyond parody. According to Channel 4, the title of The Undateables refers to society's preconceptions — although I'd argue that it's optimistic to think this sort of analysis has gone through the mind of many drivers who've passed the ad on their morning commute.
Most will have taken the branding at face value — that disabled does mean asexual. Rather than dispelling the myths around relationships and disability, this marketing is more likely to have entrenched them.
That's a pity, not least because for the most part the show is done beautifully. This seems to be the point the show is simultaneously missing and making. Viewers are told from the opening that they're about to see a group of "extraordinary singletons" when in fact we see the opposite: Luke, 23 and a standup comedian, has Tourettes. Suffering twitches and involuntary swearing, he faces the obvious challenge of getting women to go out with him whilst yelling "horny bitch!
He's responsible for the most telling remark of the series: For a few of the participants, their disability does have a direct impact — most notably in the cases of those with learning difficulties. When Richard steals chips off his date's plate, it's not because he's rude but because he has Asperger syndrome.
Shaine, a poet in sheltered accommodation, needs a chaperone on his date in episode two. Overall, however, it's not the differences but the similarities you're left with: Sometimes funny, sometimes aching, it doesn't once say disability and dating don't quite fit. With The Undateables, Channel 4 has a gem of a programme — but one the branding has done its best to misrepresent.
And that despite the first rule of dating: