A man who sparked headlines for his awkward reality TV date has thanked his "serious life partner" for putting up with his antics on the show.
And TVNZ has admitted it didn't know he had a girlfriend at the time of filming.
Simon Phillips, aka 'Simon from Palmie', stole Monday night's episode of TVNZ 2's First Dates NZ, which pairs supposedly single participants and films their first meal together.
Simon's cringeworthy antics during his date with 22-year-old model Carey included making bad taste sexual references, commenting on his date's cleavage, faking a heart attack mid-dinner, and asking her if she had sex on a first date.
In an interview with the Herald, Phillips admitted that he had a girlfriend at the time the episode was filmed.
But he denied misleading viewers, saying he was single at the time he attended a casting call for the show in February, before filming kicked off in June.
"She's become my serious life partner at this point," he said.
"(She's) chill about it and not raking me over the coals for some of the stuff that was very out there."
TVNZ said it had taken Simon "at his word" and weren't aware of his relationship status when filming commenced.
"Simon said he was single and looking for love when he applied to take part in First Dates NZ and we took him at his word. Our producers were not aware that his relationship status had changed ahead of filming," a spokesperson said in a statement.
On Facebook, the 25-year-old Auckland-based businessman from Palmerston North said Laura "dressed me up and dropped me off" for the date.
TVNZ hasn't responded to Herald inquiries as to whether producers knew Simon already had a girlfriend when filming on the show started.
Other awkward moments during the episode included Simon trying to order Carey "four shots of tequila - a cheap one" and faking a heart attack because he wanted to be resuscitated by her.
Phillips told the Herald it was an "embellished" version of himself, but admitted it was "pretty much me".
"I make jokes and I say inappropriate shit. But if that was a date with a real female I would have been a lot more moderate. You don't go out and say things like that," he said.
"I was just on a reality TV show, I thought I'd have some fun, and give people something to talk about and watch. It's brilliant exposure for myself (and) Carey."
Phillips said feedback had been "50-50" and said some of the initial negativity had since died down.
"There's no necessity for people to read a headline and go online and make comments about how horrific I am."
Comments on his Facebook page included: "Oh this guy's a loser," "I bet he doesn't have a real girlfriend," and "his mother should be ashamed."
But Phillips said the opposite was true.
"My mum watched it and she said, 'Oh my god - you're so cute'."
Phillips also admitted what was in the gift that he gave Carey at the beginning of the date - two pairs of leggings from his activewear business.
"They weren't even the right size," he said.
Despite Carey, a mother-of-one, saying Simon was her type, she didn't agree to a second date because he'd admitted he wasn't ready to date someone with a child.
In the same Facebook post, Simon said four hours of filming "cuts down nicely into a rather confronting caricature of my personality".
He also promoted his activewear clothing label, which was emblazoned across a T-shirt during the episode, and provided links for discounts.
In a post from September, Simon said he'd surprised his girlfriend with a birthday trip to Rarotonga and shared a photo of the pair relaxing on a beach together.