If you don’t go out on a Saturday night, you stay in and imagine what it would be like to be out. And if you do that, there’s a chance you’ll find yourself in front of Take Me Out, the dating programme that airs on the ITV primetime slot once enjoyed by Blind Date. Last Saturday, incredibly, it completed its sixth series. Such is the Tinder-like trend for having dates brought to you, rather than actually having to go out to get them yourself.
And what an eye-opener it is. Thirty women, apparently tailored by the same outfitter, totter down a staircase, and take up position behind thirty electric lecterns.
One single man is then lowered onto the stage in the ‘Love Lift’, presumably because his feet are his best feature, and merit being seen first. As his torso comes into view, there is no stopping the suspense. Typically, he’s contorting it into some unusual shapes, like a cormorant in a mating ritual, but even then he struggles to disguise the fact that he is, inside, a bag of nerves. He knows that as soon as he steps out of the lift (more a dumbwaiter, really), the women have the power to put on the red light, which, in this game, means the opposite to how The Police intended it. It’s when she’s seen enough that a woman flicks the switch and her white light dips to a scarlet glow. As the Take Me Out tagline goes, ‘No likey, no lighty’.
This proves too tempting for the show’s presenter, Paddy McGuinness, who speaks purely la langue du fromage, ‘Are you turned on or turned off?’, he bellows in fat decibels. And the studio gasps as it becomes apparent that some of the ladies have only chosen ‘no lighty’ (as if the drain-cleaner wasn’t a catch), so they can be sure to be on telly again in next week’s show, and the one after that, until whenever it is they are finally kicked off.
Still, it’s hard to blame them. The women may only speak when spoken to, and there are thirty of them competing for one man, time after time. What’s worse, the ones who keep their lights on must then hold their breath as the gentleman (loosely described) runs round turning out lights as if in a game of duck-duck-goose. He whittles down his choice to just two, then makes his decision based on their answers to one question. In this week’s show, one of them asked, ‘if you were a wine, which would you be?’
Each winning couple enjoys (or not) a real-life, physical (though not always physical) date. But in keeping with the blurred reality of the entire thing, it takes place on ‘Fernandos’, an anonymous island with a fictionalized name. That, really, says it all.
The Blind Date style holiday diary that documents it is the best bit, providing as it does a fascinating insight into the zeitgeist. Conversation typically begins with a comment on the food. Quite often, one party has never encountered an artichoke or avocado, or has a phobia of fish. In Saturday’s episode, a girl resorted to asking her date his favourite kind of grape (she wasn’t talking about wine). Another, who declared afterwards that she thought that it was true love, piped, ‘let’s have a staring competition’.
An hour of this will leave you torn. Was it worth staying in, or more worryingly, is it worth ever going out again?