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One can only wonder what Jean-Paul Sartre would have made of First Dates New Zealand.
In his 1944 play No Exit, Sartre toyed with the idea that "hell is other people'', placing his three protagonists in a room together in hell, with an eternity together their punishment.
"Hell is other people'', I understand, is a reference to Sartre's ideas about the existential struggle of seeing oneself as an object from the view of another consciousness.
Perhaps these issues will flit briefly through the minds of the poor lonely sods who will front up next Monday at 8.40pm on TV2 to indulge in the unfortunate international reality series of which New Zealand has now made its own version.
First Dates New Zealand sets up eight hopeful singles each week on a blind date, capturing, TV2 says, "all of the hope and heartbreak'' of that orchestrated event.
First Dates was originally a British reality television show, broadcast on Channel 4 since 2013.
For inexplicable reasons it was then picked up and remade in Canada, Ireland and Australia.
Now we have it.
The show throws together singles on a blind date, then at the end of the date, the couples are interviewed together and asked whether they would like to see each other again.
The Kiwi couples will share a three-course meal while "discreet cameras placed throughout the First Dates restaurant record every detail of the date from start to finish''.
They couples have been matched on their likes and dislikes, TV2's promotional blurb says, but "will it be a match made in heaven or a first date from hell?''. - Hell.
Jean-Paul Sartre would have recognised this empty social construct in a fake restaurant for a hastily cobbled together piece of television fluff as just that.
He would have understood the horror of staring vacantly across a table at someone whose ambition is to be on television no matter how lowly the vehicle with which they achieve that aim.
He would have seen the torture of trying desperately to make small talk while you are getting your head around Sartre's idea the judgement of ``the other'' is mixing with your judgement of yourself.
The ``other'' our sad single is dealing with is both their date and the relentless gaze of the television camera.
Worse, said single has perhaps reached the zenith of their life's achievements by appearing as a bit player on a reality show.
So what we can understand from all this is that First Dates New Zealand will lead you towards a sort of hellish existential crisis from which you may never recover.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
- by Charles Loughrey