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By Debbie le Quesne

Posts Tagged ‘The Undatables

Brave TV show risk for disabled Raymond pays off

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Promoted as an uplifting piece of television, Channel 4’s The Undatables was destined to polarise opinion.

The series followed the journey of a number of disabled people trying to find love.

Was it, as one critic said, “a Victorian circus freak show” or was it “sensitive and kind,” the opinion of another TV writer.

My initial response was apprehensive. But after stumbling on an article about one of the show’s candidate my ‘Jury out’ opinion has changed.

Love it, or hate it, the programme certainly broke a taboo.

More than two and a half million tuned in to watch the progress of these selected people deemed ‘undatable’ due to some form of disability or disfigurement, ranging from brittle bones to Asperger’s.

For one of them, the experience has been life-changing, catapulting him to a kind of stardom.

Raymond Johnson told a national newspaper: “The day after The Undateables was shown, I was on the way to work and came out from the station, a person driving a car hooted and started doing a Leeds salute. Then when I was waiting to get on the bus, someone took their phone out and took my picture.”

He agreed to take part in the show to help challenge viewers’ opinions on the disabled – but did not expect the celebrity status, which followed.

Three months on from the broadcast of the latest series, he is still being recognized. People stop to chat to him or pose for photographs. “I love it,” he said. “I love a bit of the limelight.”

The Updateable followed Raymond, an ardent Leeds United fan, as he tried to find a new girlfriend after his fiance, Lolita, called off their engagement.

Although the programme attracted criticism for the way it was marketed, it proved a hit and the series was praised for its “warm and inclusive” tone.

The positive response from many viewers, he feels, proves it was worth putting himself through the experience.

Raymond hit back at comments by one TV critic who said the participants in the show were vulnerable and should have been protected from exploitation.

“It is wrong to make assumptions about people with learning difficulties,” he said. “I don’t think I’m vulnerable.”

His stand was a risky one, but I suspect he is okay with viewers tittering over some of the issues raised.

I cannot argue about the ethics of this material – the issues are far too complex for a late hour on a Thursday evening, but I’m grateful that these brave ‘celebrities’ spoke openly about their disabilities and love.

If the programme makers wanted entertainment, they succeeded; if they desired to stimulate debate, that too is an on-going success.

History teaches that society has never handled disabilities well. I can only hope the huge audiences the programme drew will help make for a more enlightened future.

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Written by debbielq

May 23, 2013 at 11:27 pm