Do Yourself A Favour And Binge ‘Better Date Than Never’, Your Antidote To Bad Reality TV

New comfort show alert.

Charles Olivia Better Date Than Never

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Your first-ever date is probably something you’re glad not many people were around to witness, so pour one out for the fearless participants of Better Date Than Never. 

The new show from the makers of Love On The Spectrum guides dating newbies through the initial steps of of small talk and flirting; those crucial micro-manoeuvres that could eventually lead to a lasting and meaningful relationship. 

Over the course of the short series, you’ll watch participants from a range of backgrounds navigate the highly relatable pitfalls of modern love for the very first time, from choosing the perfect compliment to mastering essential pre-date ironing. 

But there’s a massive question some viewers might be asking themselves before sitting down to watch the six-part doco-series: how on earth did producers convince these people to sign up for a reality TV show, let alone allow a camera crew to film their most vulnerable moments? 

Love Isn’t Always On Time

Charles – a 27-year-old environmental engineering student from China – had an epiphany while watching fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour Bridge where he realised he wanted to come out as gay. But the euphoria from this decision quickly wore off, hitting an impasse as many do when faced with the toxicity of dating apps. 

After discovering a casting advert boasting opportunities for never-daters from all walks of life on a group university page, Charles did the unthinkable and took the plunge. 

“It was a bold move,” he concedes. “I didn’t really think it through, I even felt a bit regretful after I sent it”. Producers encouraged Charles to watch Love On The Spectrum, with this “beautiful show” eventually earning Charles’s trust to have his first ever dates filmed on camera. 

Charles in an episode of Better Date Than Never

For high-achiever Olivia – a dancer, actor, and public speaker who has addressed the United Nations as an advocate for people with Down Syndrome –  dating was the one obstacle that the 22-year-old had yet to conquer. “I just want to be seen as a normal person,” Olivia tells me when I ask why she was keen to do the show. “I’m pretty sure every person with down syndrome, or with all abilities, would love people to see them as normal.” 

Yes, Dating Is More Terrifying Than Speaking At The UN

Signing up for a reality dating show is definitely not the normal avenue for people looking for love – and in case you’re wondering – cameras definitely don’t negate the usual experience of pre-date jitters. 

“Before going on the show, I worried about if I’m gonna speak proper English, or if they’ll need to subtitle everything I said,” Charles explains. His exposure to Western queer culture also led him to express fears in the show’s second episode that he’d have to “listen to all the divas” and “watch all the Ru-Pauls” before being equipped to date Australian men. 

His exposure to Western queer culture also led him to express fears in the show’s second episode that he’d have to “listen to all the divas” and “watch all the Ru-Pauls” before being equipped to date Australian men. 

For Olivia, the nerves before her first date far surpassed what she experienced before addressing the UN. Rejection was also on her mind; specifically, the fear of hurting someone else’s feelings. “It’s kind of hard for me, because I’m an emotional person,” she explains. Olivia’s mum, Kerry, also worried about how the experience would affect her daughter. “How do those people survive those shows?” Kerry exclaims when asked about reality TV shows like The Bachelor. “The manipulation and the heroes and the villains, and the twisting!” 

But all these seemingly insurmountable obstacles are faced by our protagonists with grace and humility. Olivia’s endless positivity makes for one of the most special reality TV experiences of all time, while watching Charles navigate love’s mysterious currents frequently gave me Ratatouille-like flashbacks to my own first dates. 

A New Frontier Of ‘Healthy’ Reality TV 

If you’ve already seen Love On The Spectrum, you may be asking why you should be interested in another show from the ABC that — on paper — appears similar. Ask yourself this: when did you last raise an eyebrow at the news of yet another spin-off of The Bachelor or Farmer Wants A Wife

Better Date Than Never fits into a new landscape of healthy reality TV where contestants aren’t submitted to humiliating challenges or manipulated into competing against one another. Charles is candid about his experience on the show, and says while his confidence has fluctuated since appearing on Better Date Than Never, he’s still definitely experienced personal growth. 

“It’s like a learning curve,” he says when I ask what advice he would give to those getting into dating slightly later in life. “Even if it’s a bad date; it’s still going to earn you something.” 

“Even if it’s a bad date, it’s still going to earn you something.” 

Olivia says that she couldn’t even begin to compare her experience on Better Date Than Never to some of her other favourite reality TV shows because the experience was so different. 

“I think the reason why they’re both so different is because with reality TV shows, they want you to be someone you are not. But with [Better Date Than Neverthey just want your real, real, authentic self. And that’s what made it so lovely.” 

Catch Better Date Than Never on Tuesdays at 8pm on the ABC. The full season is available to stream on ABC iview

Editor’s note: Junkee and Northern Pictures are both subsidiaries of RACAT Media.