Last Night’s TV: Dates

With teen drama Skins bowing out next month, creator and writer Bryan Elsley has turned his hand to something slightly more adult in the form of Dates, a microcosm of the world of online dating.

Drafting in some of his old acquaintances, notably fellow writers Jamie Brittain and Ben Schiffer, these mini-dramas have been a joy to watch.

Each night has seen one couple’s blind date after finding each other online, with some crossover through the series. It’s fair to say each episode is very much a vignette with a reasonable splash of stereotypical characterising rather than believable narrative, but a balance is largely struck. Indeed, the interwoven stories have kept you interested throughout but remained fresh enough not so much to become a tedious serial.

Much like Skins, Dates has been as it’s best when serving up a perfect balance of humour and drama, never taking itself too seriously. Fresh Meat duo Greg McHugh and Gemma Chan reunited for an amusing double-hander between closet lesbian Erica and Scottish loser Callum (albeit pretty much an extension of McHugh’s Fresh Meat character Howard).

Similarly, Sheridan Smith – now long free of her Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps days – also showed her tender side as unlucky-in-love teacher Jenny, who continuously ends up with the wrong guy.

The stars of the show from the beginning though have been Oona Chaplin, fresh from her wonderfully understated performance as the forever suppressed Marnie in The Hour, and somewhat-more surprisingly Will Mellor. Yes, that Will Mellor.

Chaplin oozes seduction and charm beautifully on-screen which compared with Mellor’s everyman approach have lead to the best will-they-wont-they moments of the series. She draws him, and the viewer, ever closer while still keeping everyone tantalisingly guessing her next move.

The key to the series’ success has been simple: sharp, emotive writing well delivered by some of the UK’s leading breakthrough actors. Let’s hope this relationship has some distance left to run, as a second series is well deserved.