Will they find true love on their ‘First Dates’?

Will Andrew keep Meryl on her toes?Will Andrew keep Meryl on her toes?
Will Andrew keep Meryl on her toes?
Thursday: First Dates; (Channel 4, 10pm)

The dating world is changing. Apps are experiencing record traffic – Tinder had its biggest day of swipes – three billion – during lockdown, while daters are ditching pub rendezvous for dates on video conferencing sites.

However, although it may not be possible in the current climate, there is nothing like meeting someone in person to find out if they are right for you.

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And that might explain the continued success of First Dates.

Fred Sirieix, who greets the blind daters as they arrive and offers them snippets of advice about love and life, explained to The Times why he believes the current virtual dating trend will never be as successful as face-to-face meetings.

“When you are only seeing someone on Skype and Zoom it’s very easy to fantasise about the other person and also to fantasise about who you want to be, compared to who you actually are,” the smooth-talking French maitre d’ says. “People will get desperate and go to live this false life, inventing a relationship that exists only for the purpose of making you feel less lonely, and this is where the danger lies. These online relationships might give you the psychological support you need, but it takes time to get to know somebody and physical proximity is very important – you cannot really experience a person fully until you are close to them.”

Nevertheless, although the Bafta-winning First Dates has been a massive success since it debuted in 2013, there are big changes afoot on the show.

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The Channel 4 series has been filmed at the Paternoster Chop House in central London for 15 series over the past seven years. However, when it was recommissioned earlier this year, the show’s bosses announced they would be freshening things up by moving to a new home when the new 16th series begins in 2021.

But before all that, we’re still in familiar surroundings near St Paul’s Cathedral in the capital, with 42 cameras chronicling the action as members of the public embark on dates. As we say ‘au revoir’ to summer and ‘bonjour’ to cosy nights in, Fred and his team of cupids make sure that love is at the top of the menu.

First into the restaurant is Aryeh, a 22-year-old student who is struggling to find someone who isn’t put off by his somewhat overwhelming personality. His date is 24-year-old Jack, a performance art student with a matching bold shirt.

Meryl, a 60-year-old widow from the Wirral, is looking for someone ‘with a pulse’, who can keep up with her when she goes clubbing. Experiencing a new lease of life since his hip replacement, Andrew, also 60, may well be the man to keep Meryl on her toes.

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Finally, sisters Claire and Louise have arrived together to provide moral support for a four-way date with 41-year-old Mathew and Scott from Epsom.

However, there’s a bit of confusion over who’s dating who: “This is like a swingers party,” says Scott, as a bit of bromance blossoms between him and Matt.

Although opinions may vary on whether the internet has been good for dating, you can’t really argue about its ability to let us watch what we want, when we want.

And if you fancy binge-watching the whole 15th series of First Dates, it is available on All 4 for free, to stream or download, now.

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