“First Dates” will premiere this Friday on NBC at 7PM. The show got its start in 2013 first airing in the United Kingdom. The show also airs in Australia, Canada and Ireland. All versions of the show follow the basic format of single strangers meeting at a restaurant for a first date. The American version of the show will bring people from across the country to meet at MK restaurant located on the Near North Side.
The show will try to make us feel everything that a first date might be. A first date could go great and end with a good night kiss or go horribly and end with a drink being thrown in someone’s face. The show’s producer John Hesling said, “It’s a terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach, that I hadn’t remembered in a while, as I’ve been married for 15 years. But you come to realize it’s still there in all of us — mostly a sense of impending doom… Of course, there also can be impending joy, depending on the moment or the situation.”
When speaking about why Chicago was chosen, Hesling explained, “Chicago is very representative of America. It has its own identity, but it’s not an aggressive identity in the way some other cities can be — like New York, for example. We felt it was a brilliant, centralized meeting point to fly people in from all over America.”
As anyone who’s ever been on a first date knows, choosing the restaurant could make or break the night. Do you want to go all out? Do you want to dress up? There are so many options. The producers of the show chose the MK restaurant. A quick search reveals that the MK restaurant has over four stars on almost every review site.
“Sometimes, people can make terrible miscues on their first dates — by taking someone to a place that is too fancy, or too obsessed with what it is and who it is, or with the celebrity chef who is behind it, and all that sort of thing,” Hesling said. “MK wasn’t that. It served very good food in a nice, warm, romantic atmosphere, and that was the reason we chose it.”
The show also has star power behind the camera. Ellen Degeneres is a part of the producing team and Drew Barrymore will be the show’s narrator. As far as what type of people will be going on these dates, Hesling promises that they will be from all walks of life.
“First of all, we absolutely didn’t want it to be a dating show that was all 20-somethings,” Hesling said. “I found out something that was seen on the original British series as well: The older daters were absolutely golden.”
While I won’t be appearing on the show as one of the people on a date, I was actually an extra on the show. After seeing a post looking for people to be extras on the show, I applied and was accepted. The extras were all housed in what seemed like an old art building. The extras were from every age group. After a few hours of paperwork, we were led into the restaurant. A key thing to remember is as extras we are supposed to be somewhat invisible. We are not the focus. So after being paired up, it was as if I was on a first date. I was sitting across and having dinner with a complete stranger. Luckily for me, my “fake” first date went great. If a first date goes well, how long should it be? I think most would agree dinner should last a few hours at the most. Well, as extras we had to sit through multiple sets of dates that were featured on the show. So in total my first date and some others lasted seven-plus hours. It was one of the most interesting dates I’ve ever been on. Overall, it was a great experience with some great people.
“First Dates” premieres this Friday on WMAQ at 7PM.