Better Date Than Never S2, ABC review: charming, likeable, human

The ABC's dating show with a difference offers a wholesome antidote to most reality shows about the ups and downs of finding love.

Dating shows are usually brutal. At best it’s often a genre built around the dubious pleasure of watching people fail to connect; at worst it’s a showcase for a collection of loathsome mercenaries who see all forms of human interaction in purely transactional terms. The ABC’s Better Date Than Never promises to be the wholesome antidote to the genre’s worst failings, but the path to true love rarely runs smooth.

This season we follow seven people across Australia on their quest for love – or to keep their love going, in the case of Liv from Season 1. She’s not the only returning cast member: Charles from the first season is back as well and still looking for that special someone, while new face Allycia is besties with Olivia from s1. Liv’s relationship with the much taller Ben is especially sweet, and a nice reminder that sometimes things do just work out.

And sometimes they don’t. You can’t have the thrill of victory – or just finding someone nice to spend time with – without the agony of defeat, and for some of the seven finding a partner requires more than just a bit of smooth banter. For all that this promises to be a kinder, gentler dating program, a bad date is a bad date and when two people aren’t connecting it’s not easy viewing.

But bad dates are a rarity here. Following seven people over seven episodes means that for most we’re just eavesdropping on one big date (or in Charles’ case, one speed dating session). The formula is pretty consistent throughout: we meet a character, learn a little about their life and what’s been holding them back as far as dating is concerned (maybe its religion, maybe it’s being a 68 year-old trans lesbian living on an isolated farm), then they go on a date and … it almost always works out for them. Hurrah!

Even when things get rough, Better Date Than Never is always on the side of its cast. When self-described ‘weeb’ Kento brings up his Hot Wheels collection on a date, it’s hard not to wince. But the issue he’s working to overcome is his reluctance to put himself out there. He knows that if he doesn’t push himself, he’d be happy staying in his room. Just revealing who he is and talking about his fandoms makes his date a success, even if he doesn’t get the girl (that time).

Sweet success

Still, the reason we watch dating shows is not to see the people on screen get the result they want, but for us at home to get the result we want. Nobody wants to watch an episode of Married At First Sight where the most horrible contestants find true love and go home happy, which is why that entire show is set up to provide layer upon layer of harsh judgment on everyone foolish enough to appear on it.

Better Date Than Never works on the opposite principle. Instead of focusing on superficially attractive but essentially nightmare people we want to see fail at love (creating a show where the drama comes from the worry that maybe they’ll somehow find it), it presents us with the people that traditional dating shows exclude, lets us into their lives to make it plain that they have just as much right to love as anyone, and then once we’re invested in their success – they succeed.

It might be just as structured as any other dating show, but at least here the power of the format is being used for good. Everyone here is charming, likeable, occasionally a little dorky, but always authentically human. They all deserve love, and while not everyone here finds it, they all find themselves further down the path towards it.

Better Date Than Never is a delight.

Better Date Than Never airs weekly Tuesdays 8.30pm on ABC TV, with all episodes available to stream on ABC iview from 8.30pm on 20 February.


4 out of 5 stars



Cian O'Clery

Format: TV Series

Country: Australia

Release: 20 February 2024

Anthony Morris is a freelance film and television writer. He’s been a regular contributor to The Big Issue, Empire Magazine, Junkee, Broadsheet, The Wheeler Centre and Forte Magazine, where he’s currently the film editor. Other publications he’s contributed to include Vice, The Vine, Kill Your Darlings (where he was their online film columnist), The Lifted Brow, Urban Walkabout and Spook Magazine. He’s the co-author of hit romantic comedy novel The Hot Guy, and he’s also written some short stories he’d rather you didn’t mention. You can follow him on Twitter @morrbeat and read some of his reviews on the blog It’s Better in the Dark.