ITV’s new dating show Take Me Out is car crash television at its very best. But in car crash terms, it’s more like the ‘Nasty Accident Causes a Ridiculous Traffic Jam’ scene in Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend – preposterous, yet strangely compelling.
Two friends of mine recently Tweeted their curious enjoyment of the show. @tommct described it plainly and simply as “Broad Street TV”, which is just about as accurate a description as you’re ever likely to read. While @dancingwombat confessed: “I watched it last week and had to shower afterwards to wash away the shame I felt for actually rather enjoying it.” Their comments pricked my curiosity, so I decided to watch last week’s episode of Take Me Out to see what I was missing.
The basic premise of the show – filmed in another one of ITV’s gargantuan amphitheatre’s of misery – is for 30 single women to judge a variety of potential suitors, who arrive on stage in ‘The Love Lift’ (a sort of dumbwaiter that delivers constant mediocrity). Hosted by Greggs founder, Paddy McGuinness, the aim is for the women to walk away with a date and for the men to walk away with their dignity still intact.
Still with me? Good.
The women standing in judgement of the men parading before them are a truly mixed bunch. There are women that look like male-to-female transsexuals; women that look like crack addicts on a makeover show (where the experts are mortuary cosmetologists); women with names like porn stars (e.g. Lia-Jay and Blue); women that look like they’ve eaten some of the other contestants backstage; and women with such ridiculously coiffured hair, it looks like they’re trying to conceal freakishly misshapen heads.
There are a few, though, that you might be able to take home to meet your parents (or perhaps leave in your car at the end of a long driveway so that you can at least point them out to your folks from a distance).
Anyway, the first male contestant on this week’s show was an Essex boy called Joel who emerged from the ‘Love Lift’ dancing to ‘Boom! Shake the Room’ by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. He was roughly the size of Hervé Villechaize, so when Paddy McGuinness stood beside him and placed a firm hand on his shoulder it looked like he was about to make a lost child announcement to the audience. Joel looked nervous. Would he impress?
Round One of Take Me Out appeared to be a test to see if Joel could remember his own name and home town. Once he’d completed that simple task, the girls standing in judgement then made a snap decision to either remain in the frame for a possible date or turn their light off and count themselves out completely. Joel passed with flying colours, with only five girls turning off their lights (i.e. coldly rejecting him).
Round Two started with Paddy McGuinness informing the girls about Joel’s talent for speed rapping. But rather than allowing him to demonstrate his talent on his own terms, McGuinness handed him a Chinese restaurant menu and instructed him to speed rap that instead. The girls were then reminded that if they didn’t like what they saw or heard they could turn their lights off at any time. Of course, as they were about to hear a man speed rapping a Chinese menu, the chances of them liking what they heard were slim.
Joel then speed rapped through the menu – which felt a bit like a task on The Moment of Truth – while several of the girls extinguished their podium lights at a rapid rate. It was a like a power cut hitting the neon strip of Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. The task was acutely random. I’m surprised Paddy McGuinness didn’t piss in a cup and instruct Joel to gargle ‘Rapper’s Delight’.
Round Three consisted of a pre-recorded VT in which Joel had already done a magnificent job of making himself look like a massive cock. Leaning on the bonnet of his Y-Reg BMW (which was parked in front of a drab semi-detached house), Joel said confidently: “Don’t miss out, girls, this could all be yours.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, this triggered another round of lights being hastily turned off.
Joel’s fate was sealed when he announced that he still lived with his parents and was forbidden from bringing girls back home. It made me wonder why he’d bothered with any of the cockiness and bravado in the first place, when his final revelation was about as appealing as showing the Take Me Out girls his scrapbook collection of past girlfriend’s pubic hair.
When all of the girls’ lights were out, Joel left the stage – alone – with Eric Carmen’s ‘All By Myself‘ ringing in his ears. Humiliating and soul destroying, I’m sure.
The penultimate male contestant out of the ‘Love Lift’ was the former drummer from Marmalade, Alan Whitehead. Now in his sixties, Alan strutted and wiggled embarrassingly confidently about the stage, while the girls clapped along like excitable parents watching a toddler dancing to a ringtone for the first time.
To be fair, Alan actually had it a lot easier than Joel. He flew through round one (the remembering your name and where you live task), losing only nine girls in the process. And for round two, all he had to do was play the drums and mime to ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da‘.
Miraculously, Alan actually managed to walk away with a date. (You could practically hear Joe’s muffled screams backstage, as salt was slowly and painfully massaged into his open wounds.) The aforementioned Lia-Jay (a care worker from Rossendale, so not quite as porny as she sounds) was the lucky lady. However, I couldn’t help but think that she probably just decided to sacrifice herself in order to make a swift exit from the show. The alternative option was to crack the casing on her podium and plunge her head into a nest of live wires.
The rest of the show is very much in the vein of Blind Date, whereby we get to see how the dates went for last week’s couples. However, due to obvious budget constraints we no longer see couples playing crazy golf in Llandudno or riding the banana in Mallorca, because every single date on Take Me Out is held in the VIP area of a Manchester club called Fernando’s (the recession is biting hard).
This means that we, the viewers, get to watch close-up shots of fleeting neck strokes, flirty leg touching, occasional kissing, and quite simply the dullest conversation you could ever imagine. It would be more entertaining if the couples had to bring in stool samples, which they then analyse and discuss over a cocktail. (Watching the guy playfully sticking a cocktail umbrella in his date’s colourful log, before advising her to cut down on leafy green vegetables and M&Ms, would be a massive improvement.)
Anyway, I suppose I’d better wrap this up. Basically, Take Me Out isn’t something that you’ll stay in for on a Saturday night. And if you’re popular enough to have plans at the weekend, it’s not something you’ll record while you’re out either. But in all likelihood you’ll probably find yourself watching the ITV2 repeat on a Sunday afternoon, slumped on the sofa with a fine cup of coffee, a filthy bacon sandwich, and a heavy sigh of relief that you’re not Joel…speed rapping a Chinese menu…in the face of cold, hard rejection.