I’ve been asked several times to comment on recent programming surrounding the subject of disability such as Channel 4’s The Undateables. After the Ricky Gervais furore where my opinion not only got me support but also a barrage of insults (including a baffling comparison to Hitler) I decided to take my time to form my opinion.
In all honesty, I initially decided that I wanted to boycott a programme which had a title as grotesque as The Undatables. How dare they label people with special needs as undatable. What a terrible name for a show. I was angry and hurt that they could even consider to label people such as my sister as undatable because it’s simply not true. (those who have met Loretta will know she’s always got a man in her life… sometimes three…)
The ad campaign surrounding the show was equally appalling. The billboards picturing those featured in the programme were blazoned with a caption stating “Love is blind, disfigured autistic” seemed to be painting this new format as some kind of freak show and I did not want to be part of it.
I think Loretta could probably do without seeing someone with Downs Syndrome on a billboard with the label undatable written under it.
I know I could.
However tonight curiosity got the better of me and I watched episode 3 of the show. I was surprised to find it is a very thoughtful, dignified series that merely documents people searching for love. It is humorous and heart warming as you’d expect any programme about relationships to be, no matter who the subjects happen to be.
It also manages to be matter-of-fact and is in no way patronising, which is always the main danger of programmes of this nature. It’s just such a shame it has such a shitty, disrespectful title.
So why such an awful title? Surely the programme has proved that the people in it are far from undatable?
The sad thing is, because of the way the show has been marketed, it’s title will attract the wrong audience. The ones who maybe would gain amusement or poke fun at those with special needs and their implied failure to find romance.
I’ve thought long and hard about this and now having seen the show, I still disagree with the show’s name, but can see one glowing positive reason why it might be good it was marketed the way it was. And titled the way it is.
Because the people who need to see shows like this are the ignorant few who would have tuned into the show purely based on its title and to mock those who feature in it. It’s them who’s opinions will be changed once they see that the characters they come across are just like everyone else.
And that can only be a good thing.
Maybe the shock-tactic marketing has worked to blow the subject matter wide open and allow more intelligent, mature and accessible programming like this to be commissioned.
Maybe it is only then that we can relegate the usual sensationally titled tabloid-esque junk that normally takes up the 9pm slot back into the waste paper bin where it belongs.
So I hope those out there in TV-land will take a leaf out of Betty Productions’ book and see the show as a prime example of how to deal with this subject delicately yet factually.
However no matter how good the show is I still absolutely hate the title.This post is just merely to point out a potential positive outcome of naming the show such a down-talking title.
It’s still very sad that it seems the only way a subject like this gets prime time viewing is in this manner. I’m hoping it’s a short lived trend and the success of the show will allow the sensationalism to be toned down.
Hopefully one day the likes of Channel 4 et al will not feel they have to resort to shock-tactics to market a show like this.
Because, at the end of the day, there is nothing sensational or shocking about a group of people wanting to find love – is there?