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TV review: Why Am I Still Single? First Cut, Channel 4

Dates, Channel 4

Tom Sutcliffe
Thursday 27 June 2013 08:53 BST
Naomi and Lex from Why Am I Still Single? First Cut
Naomi and Lex from Why Am I Still Single? First Cut (Channel 4)

Judging from Naomi's Twitter page wallpaper, she isn't a shy woman. It consists of a shot of Naomi from behind wearing only a pair of black knickers. As if she was worried that this might not be inviting enough, she's also peeling the fabric back from her right buttock to reveal the phrase "Chaos and order" tattooed across the top of a cheek.

It's a bold look, but it doesn't exactly suggest that what Naomi wants most in the world is to climb off the sexual carousel and settle down with Mr Right. As it happens, though, that's exactly what she longs for, which is why she'd agreed to surrender what little privacy she retains by taking part in Why Am I Still Single?, the latest contribution to Channel 4's relationships season.

The idea is that two unwilling singletons swap lives, poking through each other's dirty laundry to try and work out why nothing's quite clicked yet. Quite why they're regarded as better qualified for such an analysis than someone who has actually pulled the trick off, I'm not sure, but television producers are as susceptible to the allure of symmetry as the rest of us, so Naomi's other half for the purpose of this exercise was Lex, who similarly yearns to become half of a couple rather than the whole of a lad about town. Essentially, he had to work out why someone wouldn't stay the course with her while she performed the same service for him.

Naomi can't be faulted for lack of effort. "In the last four years, I've been on 120 dates," she said. The fact that you're counting might be one clue, Naomi. There's nothing quite as unnerving as the pheromones of desperation, which she also tends to waft about her by a willingness to start the sex talk within a sentence or two. She even did it to Lex, leaving a note for him pinned down by a plastic dog turd: "Please don't masturbate in my bed," it read, an instruction that Lex declared he was going to ignore. Naomi is a part-time stand-up, so I think this was a sample of her comedy stylings.

All of this lairiness, you eventually discovered, was a front, concealing a romantic soul who (pop psychology klaxon) was looking to compensate for paternal abandonment and parental divorce. When Naomi went to talk to Lex's first serious girlfriend, she burst into tears when she heard an extract from one of his love letters ("I've never had a letter like that written to me") and she later confessed that she was still carrying a torch for the first real love in her life, a chap called Dave, who got a fierce dressing down from Lex, when it emerged that he was still drawing sexual benefits without properly signing on.

I'm not sure that either of them learnt a lot from the experience, though Naomi seemed startled to be told that men in search of a loving and long-term relationship might find raunchy small talk unnerving rather than attractive and Lex discovered that he could survive delivering his own stand-up routine, when this was foisted upon him by the producer under the pretence that it would give him a greater insight into Naomi's problems. He also came to the catch-up meeting with a girlfriend. It might have been intriguing to hear from her about how the treatment had worked, but very sensibly she decided on a non-speaking role only.

Dates, Channel 4's mix-and-match drama series, continues to impress. Last night, Stephen (Ben Chaplin) came back for second helpings of the lethal Mia only to get dumped at the last minute and swerve into a flirtation with Heidi. The writing and performances are as sharp as each other and once again it honoured the truth that there aren't a lot of neat endings in life.

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