When the producers of Love on the spectrum were casting for the US adaptation of their hit ABC series, one question popped into their minds: How were they ever going to find another Michael?
Described as the “heart and soul” of the show’s two seasons, he was appreciated by Australians for his warmth, humour, determination and endless optimism in his search for love.
Now Northern Pictures brings it to us Best date evera 6 part series where 5 Australians agree to cameras following them on blind dates, which were set up for them by the producers.
While First dates sits at a table in a restaurant, and mafs has TV weddings at the altar, Best date ever traces a sweeter and more rooted path, allowing us to get to know the participants, their desires and their fears before the big day.
This is the ABC’s, so forget hot singles in training for careers on Instagram.
The first episode introduces us to 22-year-old Olivia from Queensland, Charles a 27-year-old international student from China and Nirvali, a 20-year-old female from Queensland.
“Being in a relationship would mean the whole world to me… I hope to find the one,” reveals Olivia.
Her family home is filled with her many trophies and medals in dancing, dressage, swimming and poetry. She even holds a Young Citizen of the Year certificate and has approached the United Nations as an advocate for people with Down syndrome.
But she’s never been on a date and is full of excitement about the plans the producers have set. Plus, she doesn’t want to be responsible for breaking hearts, and frankly, she just wants a tall guy who can reach the back of the closet. I hear you.
Mum Kerry, part of the family we meet, is also nervous but will go with the flow.
“Olivia just doesn’t see any obstacles,” she explains.
Meanwhile Charles came out as gay after watching the NYC fireworks in Sydney in 2020, clearly more confident about doing so in a new country and a new year. But he’s found that dating apps are full of body image judgments and he’s also encountered terrible racism. His euphoria at the prospect of a very first date is really captivating.
Finally Nirvali admits that she has rarely ventured outdoors due to her social anxieties, and certainly never pursued romance, until this new chapter.
“I think it will challenge my hermit lifestyle and come out of a shell that I don’t want to be in,” she says.
Audiences will also be impressed by his brother, whose support is particularly heartwarming.
“The first step is to get out. Next step, world domination,” she insists.
A nervous Nirvali asks her mother, “Should I tell them about my anxieties?” and she reveals, “I’d like to be in love even if it hurts.” Newsflash: She will at some point.
The producers might argue that they’re adding jokes to the plot by deliberately holding up the blind dates they have waiting in the wings (only one is revealed in the first episode), but it’s also a device used in reality TV.
Thankfully the tone is anything but reality here.
Northern Pictures creates with empathy and insight, taking into account the needs and limitations of its most fragile participants. It’s framed in reality with sweetness and humor around the edges.
Weirdly, there is a disembodied voice of the producer interacting with the participants, asking them questions, which might be necessary as a kind of pandemic zoom restriction, but I found it quite distracting (especially when used in all scenes). ‘open… who is this voice and where do they come from?).
Other episodes will feature 68-year-old transgender farmer Dianne and 20-year-old Liv who is diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
It’s good to be inclusive, but even the casting makes me feel like I’m trying a little too hard to be Love on the spectrum 3 rather than landing with your own voice.
That said, it’s easy to root for these attendees. Charles may not quite be Michael, but you really want him to get through his first date (in episode two) and for everyone to emerge stronger, wealthier, and with a twinkle in their eye.
Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC.