“There’s a lot of [dating] shows that really focus on super-hot, super-confident, good-looking people,” says Cian O’Clery, one of the producers of Better Date Than Never. “And I just really wanted to see more real people represented.”
O’Clery, who confesses he would never make the cut for The Bachelor or Love Island, has form in this space. He was also a producer on both local seasons of Love on the Spectrum, as well as the recent US version. (And it was his work on Employable Me that gave him the idea in the first place.)
“We asked ourselves: what was a way we could broaden representation in the dating space that has purpose, but is still engaging for an audience, that’s still fun, and that feels like an ABC show,” he says. “Because I’ve felt it personally – I watch these shows and think, no-one would ever want to date me. I think it does affect how people feel about themselves.”
Although there’s plenty of shared DNA with Love on the Spectrum, O’Clery stresses that Better Date Than Never is very much its own show, and finding a genuine variety of people – and then other people as dates for them – was a challenge.
“It’s not easy, especially when you’re not being too specific about who you’re looking for,” he says. There is not – at this point at least – a Facebook group for people wanting to date for the first time. “So we just put the word out everywhere we possibly could, from choosing particular communities to general casting call-outs on social media, university groups, all sorts of different ways.”
The team then started to figure out who they wanted on the show. “A lot of it is just about who comes through the door,” O’Clery says. “You just want to end up with a nice group of people who feel different.”
One of the first people to walk through the door was Charles, a 27-year-old international student, recently out as gay, who was finding the dating apps a bit disheartening. He’d been to Mardi Gras with some friends from uni, then got on to a Mardi Gras Facebook group, where he saw the casting call for the series.
“You know, after Mardi Gras, there’s a bit of post-Mardi Gras blues,” he explains. “I got to the end of Mardi Gras and I thought: I want that.” A show looking for people from diverse backgrounds who’d never dated before? “I thought: this could be my first step in the journey.”