July 10, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Dates”


DATES:  Thursday 9PM on CW – If Nothing Else Is On…

CW is barely promoting its run of the 2013 British series DATES, which the network is using (presumably for a negligible fee) to fill a few hours of its summer schedule.  It’s an oddity, the kind of show you might expect to find on a marginal cable network like Sundance, or maybe as one of those occasional non-Sunday Anglophile comedies HBO likes to air.  Each half-hour episode (CW is airing 2 weekly back-to-back) is essentially a self-contained 2-character playlet, although some of the characters will recur in later episodes, concerning couples who’ve met online having their first in-person interaction, with the episodes hitting various shades of dramedy.

Tonight’s first episode, written by series creator Bryan Eisley and directed by John Maybury, was a more or less conventional rom-com, in which nice-guy widower David (Will Mellor) slowly touched the reluctant, brittle, big-city heart of serial dater Mia (Oona Chaplin).  The darker second half-hour, written by Nancy Harris and directed by Charles Sturridge, had awkward kleptomaniac schoolteacher Jenny (Sheridan Smith) meeting stock trader Nick (Neil Maskell), who interrupted their meal to have surreptitious bathroom sex with their male waiter, causing Jenny to nick his wallet.

The episodes have the charms and limitations of their form:  they move swiftly, establishing character and reaching a climax in roughly 20 minutes minus commercials, but they can’t go very deep.  In the David and Mia piece, we have the pair sized up in their first few minutes, and then it’s a matter of how engagingly they can make their halting way into romance (fairly engagingly as it turns out).  The Jenny and Nick episode is more problematic, because these people have issues that can’t be more than suggested in the short running time.  The characters are all treated with welcome, if unflinching, compassion throughout.

In both episodes, the acting is polished, and the straightforward direction clears the way for the performers and writing to take the spotlight in a way that feels classically British.  It’s hard to imagine that Dates will find much of an audience here, with little to drive viewership its way (including Beauty & the Beast, with its 0.2 rating, as its lead-in), but it’s a refreshing palate-cleanser for this very serious TV summer.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."