I went on TV to ﬁnd love
Dan Shell agreed to let an ITV camera crew follow his attempts at internet dating. Any regrets?
Finding true love can be a tricky and unpredictable journey. It is a process that most people like to conduct with a degree of privacy. However, 38-year-old Dan Shell has decided to allow the television-viewing public to follow his romantic progress.
Shell is a member of the JDate Jewish-matchmaking website. As such he has been chosen to take part in A Match Made in Heaven, a six-part series which follows the fortunes of Christians, Muslims and Jews trying to find partners of the same faith online. He is by no means the stereotypical sad single. By day he is a cocktail barman, by night a club DJ, and in his spare time he rides his collection of vintage motorbikes and travels.
Not a bad CV — so why would he need to look for a partner on the internet?
I grew up in Tunbridge Wells in Kent,” he explains. “There were only a few Jews there and most of them were in my family. I’ve never been involved in the Jewish community or had many Jewish friends.”
Yet Shell does yearn to meet a Jewish woman. He says: “I’m like a lot of Jews, I’m into the traditional side of it. I feel the desire to keep it all going, to keep the faith, as it were. It would be nice for my parents and grandparents, and it helps the couple because there is always that bond you have between you. As well as being gorgeous and hilarious and wealthy, my dream woman would be Jewish.”
However, he thinks the cameras might well have been more of a hindrance than a help. “Originally, I thought the whole thing might be short and sweet. I didn’t realise that I would be followed around at work and at home. Also, there were a couple of girls I was chatting to on the internet who were up for meeting, but when I said that the cameras were going to be there, they said: ‘No way.’”
But with the film crew putting on the pressure for Shell to find dates, he threw himself into it with renewed vigour. “They said: ‘Come on Dan, we need to get a few dates out of this,’ so I pulled my finger out a bit. The more effort I put in, the more I got out of it.”
He found it helpful when a female friend went online with him. “Being a bloke I’d been looking at the photos saying, I fancy her, I don’t fancy her, and basing it 90 per cent on that. She said that maybe we should read what they had actually written in their profiles and base it on that. We chose a few possibles, and one of them nearly went on a date with me, but at the last minute she emailed me to say: ‘Actually, I’ve really had enough of all you men.’”
He says he still feels “slightly weird” about the online dating thing. “It’s moved on a lot from when it started. Online dating was really for people with three arms and a nose at the back of their heads, or so we thought. But although it’s really commonplace now, there is still a slight stigma.
“And I don’t like the fact that when you’re typing on the internet you lose all the nuances you get when you’re speaking. It’s difficult for humour to come across.”
Still, his experiences have helped him to translate the online dating language. He jokes that “voluptuous” actually means fat, and that “an in-proportion figure” means “short and fat”.
Shell has yet to find his dream woman, but has been told by the production team that he came across well in the series and can expect to receive a stream of emails after the shows go out. He laughs: “I’m planning to go travelling to Central America in August, but maybe I’ll take my laptop with me.”
A Match Made in Heaven is on ITV1 on Sunday at 11.45pm
Small-screen jewish romances
Kosher heartthrob Ziggy Lichman got friendly with fellow contestant Chanelle Hayes on 2007’s Big Brother. They enjoyed some passionate moments in the BB house before he ended the affair with the line: “It’s not you, it’s me.” Things were off and on again before being completely off when the pair came out the house.
In 2006, 22-year-old student Miri Inbar was chosen from 17 girls to date New York bachelor Ari Goldman on the Israeli reality show Of all the Girls in the World. Romance flickered briefly before the pair split, with Inbar blaming a “lack of chemistry”. They pledged to remain friends, though.
TV’s most famous Jewish romance is a fictional one — Park Avenue princess Rachel Green and geeky Ross Geller from US sitcom Friends famously found it hard to get back together after Ross strayed while “they were on a break”. Over 52 million viewers are said to have tuned in to see them finally end up together in the tear-jerking final episode.