• Television This is how I flirted on First Dates

In love you never know. It can go well, it can go wrong or, directly, it can not come out. It's like life itself, it's part of life. This is the secret of one of the longest-running programs on television, the most watched of Cuatro and the one that every night battles to get the scepter of social networks: First Dates. And that is what it is, a vehicle to find love, "or have a good time", say those who direct it, and incidentally, be a faithful reflection of society, with its good and its bad, with its diversity, with its buts, but above all with one objective: to fall in love. Do you succeed?

The numbers do not lie: in its seven years of broadcasting, with reruns, with special programs, First Dates have passed more than 9,000 dates, has been the seed of more than 30 marriage proposals, has united more than seven couples at the altar and has been the godfather of almost a dozen babies. Because First Dates is like a Love Boat of the XXI century where "there is a table for everyone".

"In this program you learn about human relationships, what society needs and the program evolves with what that society asks," says Isabel Navarro, casting director of First Dates, one of the three women who make up the tip of the iceberg of a team of more than one hundred people who live (and dream) by and for the program.

The other legs of this table are Yolanda Martín Campayo, executive producer of First Dates and Vanesa Ferreiro, director of the program. Although they do not like to appear in front of the cameras nor are they very given to being the visible face of a success that they do not tire of repeating "it belongs to everyone", they are the ones who do the magic in each program.

Three women, surrounded by a great team, in which after seven years, First Dates is no longer a job but almost a way of life. "There is a lot, a lot of work and a very large team, very prepared and with a lot of experience." What the casting director is referring to is the hard work they carry out to select singles and form couples, what they call making a 'match'.

"For us there are two ways of searching," he explains, "the direct one, in which the editor searches depending on the profiles that we want to add to the program -social networks, mainly- and a very important part that is the people who call us to participate in our program. The one who calls us is because he sees it and because he likes it and we don't want to leave him aside." It is when the pulpits come into the scene, those of the editors.

The key to the program is the 'matcheo' because it is where the soulmate or the opposite pole is located.

Isabel Navarro

When the writing team receives the detailed questionnaires already filled out, a "brutal" fieldwork begins to see what they are looking for, what they would like, with whom they could fit in, what their experiences in love have been, what he or she is like, what has failed them in love or what has failed them in their lives. "... And with that 'matcheamos', is the key to the program, the 'matcheo' because it is to find your soul mate or your polar opposite, "say the three.

A priori it may seem that they have nothing to do, but then they fit and that is for a good work of knowledge of the person. "There are times when we hit more and we get it right. We have made perfect matches and then they have met and have not liked each other. In love on that date there is a question of skin, of smell of form... and it all adds up," concludes Navarro.

And in the midst of all this 'match' a mirror, that of society. You don't have to go far to find any of the viewers on First Dates dates. They are convinced that every time someone sees the program they feel identified with one of those who are there looking for love. Because First Dates seeks diversity since its creation, but also wants to see how we are, how we relate, how we say no or how we face what anyone can find every day. You don't have to go back far to remember the appointment a few weeks ago between Med, a macho bachelor, who tried to give lessons to Luisa, a young Cuban doctor. The appointment was on everyone's lips for several days. First Dates is not afraid.

"It's not the date I liked the most," acknowledges the casting director, but "we are the vehicle, not the engine of anything." "The quote is theirs," he continues. "They relate, they manage themselves. These things happen and you also have to show them because showing this type of behavior you see what is not right and what cannot be done, "they acknowledge. The mirror, the thread that unites each viewer with the program.

"It's like a long, never-ending love story," explains Martin. In fact, much is said about its casting, the jewel in the crown of the success of First Dates, but it is a conglomerate of many and small successes. "First Dates is a family show. Children see it with their parents, grandchildren with their grandparents... Many grandchildren come because they have seen it with their grandparents and they are the ones who encourage them!" He does not lie, it was Ibai Llanos himself who confessed himself a fan of First Dates as a result of seeing him with his grandfather. "Love is the engine of life and it's what we love to see. Everyone likes to see how someone falls in love," says the show's executive producer.

Reality or reality? It may sound redundant, but in the case of First Dates it is more the latter than the former. Although from home you may think that it is impossible to fall in love or let things flow when dozens of cameras focus and record you, with First Dates believing that is a mistake.

Carlos Sobera opens the door of the restaurant, receives appointments, relaxes them, makes them think of anything other than meeting a stranger on a television program. The tension is palpable, but only at the beginning, as soon as you take your seat, the first words cross, the first glass of wine arrives and the first course, there is no longer Carlos Sobera, nor is there anything. Just letting it flow or, maybe not because at First Dates you never know.

Hidden cameras, a restaurant where intimacy is measured millimetrically between table and table, reserved for those who want to go a little further, waiters who guide, help, but do not force. If you don't fit, you don't fit, there's nothing else to do.

"The script is infinite and it's real," says the program's director bluntly. "You never know how people are going to react. Appointments go free. There is a script for a number of things – such as the order of entry to the restaurant or the table on which they are placed – but not for what they do on the date. Their script, the one they bring themselves, is absolutely unforeseen," he says.

You never know how people are going to react. Appointments go for free

Vanesa Ferreiro

In fact, after more than 9,000 quotes issued if there was a script, First Dates would have disappeared long ago because it is impossible to create so much plot every day. The plot is them, the society that every night comes through the door, the singles, and in the program they know it. Care, pampering, attention is breathed in every corner of the backstage.

"Nothing is planned here, even if a laborious job is done to make couples fit in. There have been appointments that have ended with a no from both parties and then they have found another appointment that has not come out on the newsroom stairs, they have crossed and have fallen in love. That is, they have said no to whom we had looked for and has found another or another who had not worked and have fallen in love, "says Navarro laughing.

From realization, each of the appointments is observed with a magnifying glass. First Dates also has its red lines. When a casting is so open, you have to have very clear protocols of action and red lines that the team knows like the back of your hand. The key to the success of First Dates is also one of its biggest risks, but "we have many 'red flags'", says Martín, while Ferreiro apostilles so that there is no doubt about it: "We are very scrupulous. We have many alerts and alarms. A very careful protocol".


First Dates is a show so, so alive. It is a program in which you learn. It never ceases to amaze us," says Ferreiro. "Making First Dates isn't easy, but it's not hard either. Everything in society gets in the door. All we do is bring him closer and give him a window. It is offered to us by dating, by society..."

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  • First Dates
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