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Everyone can relate to the experience of a first date: the promise of potential love when it goes well and the hilariously awkward moments if it crashes and burns.

From Executive Producer Ellen De Generes, narrated by Drew Barrymore and based on the hit U. format, this new series offers a voyeuristic look at a variety of real first dates happening throughout one night at the same restaurant in Chicago.

Regular contributor, Deborah Caulfield, tells us her opinion on The Undateables, a three-part series following a group of people with disabilities as they navigate the world of dating.

Having neither impressed or entertained me, I consider Channel 4’s “The Undateables” to have been, at best, a waste of time and, at worst, a potentially damaging and cynical exercise in the exploitation of disabled people.

Just as it has become more socially acceptable to be gay or lesbian, sexual attitudes toward bisexuals and partner swapping are also changing.

The taboo that society places on everything it categorizes as "out of the norm" has kept both homosexuals and swingers in the closet.

It was a cold manipulation of the needs and desires of a particular section of society’s social rejects and outcasts, people who are most often shunned and excluded through no fault of their own but because they don’t meet the socially expected good-looking criteria. For people who are shy, have low self-esteem or are too oppressed to know they’re oppressed, it is hard to think of a worse way to address their loneliness, or sense of isolation, than this. There was a sense that this level of parental intervention in the lives of their adult offspring is perfectly OK and has no unwanted side-effects.

Chances are that your neighbor, an associate at work or even a family member is a swinger.

The overtly patronising voice-over described participants as “extraordinary singletons” who “we follow as they take their first steps into the world of dating, sharing their highs and lows in their quest for love”. It’s a big step for Sam.” The Undateables was neither documentary nor reality TV. Dating is to relationships what interviews are to job – unreal and irrelevant. I object to this programme in so many ways that it is hard to articulate the reasons why. For example, UKDPC regarded the programme as voyeuristic, saying it sensationalised the issues, portraying disabled people as “desperate to seduce.” UKDPC said the programme raised questions of dignity and representation, that it was “harmful to our overall image, and risks increasing prejudice.” With all that I wholeheartedly concur. Parents were overly present in some episodes, giving advice, encouragement and in one case, a lift in the car to the date.

It was a down-market gawp fest for those who could watch it feel better about their lives. They’re embarrassing and stressful even in perfect circumstances, never mind accompanied by a chaperone, camera crew and an audience of oglers. It was to mum that another participant went running after his successful date.

According to The Guardian, the second episode of The Undateables reached an audience of 2.7 million.

For my money, if this is the best they can do, I hope Channel 4 and other TV programme makers soon get bored with disabled people and go back to ignoring us.

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