tue 18/12/2018

Dates, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

Dates, Channel 4

Dates, Channel 4

Strong casts and classy scripts distinguish short-form drama series

Jenny (Sheridan Smith) and Nick (Neil Maskell): a disunion made in heaven

The idea of writing nine 30-minute dramas (or more like 26 minutes when you take the ads out) about the thrills and calamities of first-dating might have been asking for trouble, but seems to be working out unexpectedly well so far. The crafty part about the concept (dreamed up by Bryan Skins Elsley) is that instead of having to explain the setup and establish the characters' relationships, you just watch two strangers starting the process from scratch, so they're doing the job for you.

After a persuasive start on Monday with David and Mia, starring Oona Chaplin and Will Mellor, the ante edged up further with last night's Jenny and Nick, a pithy little piece written by Nancy Harris. Casting is all, and pitting Sheridan Smith as Jenny, a schoolteacher from Rotherham unhappily transplanted to Shepherds Bush, against Neil Maskell's brutish City "buy-side trader" Nick was a disunion made in heaven.

Obviously Jenny hadn't watched C4's dystopian horror-thriller Utopia, since otherwise she would have known that if you see Neil Maskell your only options are to shoot him or run like hell. She'd arranged to meet Nick in a City of London wine bar, where he greeted her by sloshing white wine into her glass and then treating her to a drunken (he'd already had a few at the office) semi-monologue covering his favourite subjects: his loathing for himself, his bitterness towards his ex-wife, and a generalised antagonism towards women.

Under the circumstances it wasn't clear why Nick would have gone on a blind date in the first place, especially when he disappeared in the middle of the evening to shag the waiter in the toilets. By contrast, even within this brief span Jenny was able to suggest interesting contradictions. Nick wanted to typecast her as a mousy do-gooder, but she impulsively stole another woman's lipstick in the ladies, and comfortably stood her ground as Nick's behaviour grew aggressive, erratic and confrontational. For a pay-off, she deftly left Nick stranded, penniless, in the rain. Perhaps she wasn't a schoolteacher at all.

In tonight's story, Mia and Stephen (pictured above), the exotic Oona Chaplin is back as an ex-escort girl who meets surgeon Stephen (Ben Chaplin, no relation) for dinner. Written by Ben Schiffer, it's full of delicious changes of pace and shifts in tone, as the languid, rather bored Stephen is brought face to face with his own shortcomings by the fearlessly outspoken Mia. To give Stephen his due, he takes the blows with remarkably good grace, not least because Mia gets him deliriously turned on. Terrific.

Jenny didn't know that if you see Neil Maskell your only options are to shoot him or run like hell

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Comments

the directors involved so far have a certain pedigree too, don't they? John Maybury again today after Monday, Charles Sturridge no less Tuesday. remain to be convinced that it's much beyond Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected from rather many years ago, though...

Err... I think he was shagging the waiter in the toilets, not a 'mystery woman'. Hence Nick believing that the waiter had nicked his wallet. But otherwise you're right. Dates is terrific.

Hmm, that was stupid of me. Back to 4oD.

'especially when he disappeared in the middle of the evening to shag a mystery woman in the toilets' Please watch the episode properly before you write reviews about them, just sloppy journalism really...

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