When I was young(er) watching TV consisted of sitting in front of a television enduring yoghurt ads, sometimes for hours, until something you actually wanted to see came on. Then once The Crystal Maze had finally started, the channel would flip over of its own accord. Suddenly you’re watching The Auto-Windscreens Shield. Is it a ghost in the machine with a penchant for lower league football? No – it’s your dad watching TV upstairs, because both sets have to show the same channel, rendering the possession of a second television utterly pointless. They were dark times.
But now that it’s the future and we all live in space houses, TV is HD, on-demand, and on your lap. In fact, the only time I ever watch actual TV anymore is in the gym. This an especial treat because as a freelancer I get to enjoy a genre of television that for most twenty-somethings is like a distant memory or a half-remembered fever dream. Daytime TV.
Invariably the first thing that comes on is Jeremy Kyle. But there’s only so long you can watch a shrill man bully the confused and the toothless before you start to feel uncomfortable, so I flip over, rolling my way past QVC, ‘Container Wars’, HotBabezOnDemand, ‘How Shit is Your Home?’ and finally I’ve struck gold – it’s ‘Take Me Out’. For those who don’t know, this is basically Blind Date for the Tinder generation and it. is. great.
What I love the most is that when I watch this programme I feel like I have stepped into a parallel dimension. One where people mainly react to things by dancing. In this dimension every woman looks a bit like a human woman but much shinier. They have been trapped here and must participate in a bizarre mating ritual to win their freedom. As part of this ritual they all have to stand behind lecterns and can only communicate in awkward one-liners that sound like innuendo but on closer inspection turn out to be drivvle. Their overlord is a very charismatic thumb named Paddy McGuiness.
The first round of drivvle involves Paddy bounding around like an excited foal, asking the girls about their lives. Here it is revealed that in this parallel dimension women with a personality are treated as highly entertaining lunatics. You like to eat fruit in the bath?? What a fucking hoot you twisted bitch!
After sufficiently beating the self-esteem out of the female contestants it’s time for Paddy to introduce our fella, which he always does with the same winning formula: ‘Let the [insert word here] see the [insert related word here].’ Some examples:
Let the onion see the bhaji
Let the mushy see the peas
Let the hanky see the panky
Paddy always delivers this with such shiny-browed vigour he half-convinces you it is a hilarious double-entendre. But then you think a bit harder and realise there’s nothing it could possibly be an innuendo for unless it’s literally ‘Let the embarrassed women see the repugnant man.’
Said repugnant man is delivered by means of a tube (naturally) out of which he dances. At the end of this prattery the women can choose to signal their revulsion by switching off their lectern light. And thus begins the rapid erosion of one poor mug’s self esteem.
This man, who up to now had just been a happy bloke dancing inside a tube, is now forced to sum up his entire personality by means of a ‘talent’ and a video which has been edited for the singular purpose of making him look like a tit. Lights begin to turn off left and right, and it’s at this point I realise how very low my standards are as I consistently find myself thinking ‘still would’.
Thankfully the women aren’t allowed power for very long. Once he is sufficiently broken the man gets to gleefully run around rejecting women to their faces by means of a button – every modern cultured gentleman’s fantasy scenario surely! The women look gutted. I imagine they look gutted because they have to keep appearing on this bloody programme until they go on a date. THIS IS SHEER MADNESS. There are about three hundred women on every episode! They must spend literally months waiting to pick up some drip just so they can escape this recurring nightmare. It’s no wonder the economy’s in trouble – at any one time a sizeable chunk of the working age female population are appearing on Take Me Out.
Eventually the lucky lady is chosen and the leftovers shuffle off weeping to the green room where they must live for another week. The winning girl and her knight in shining trousers are then whisked away to the island of Fernandos. ‘Where is Fernandos?’ you ask. This is a question that has plagued many of the great thinkers of our time. Is Fernandos a real place? Is it a corner of the ITV studio? Or is it, indeed, a place which exists inside all of us?
Yes, there are many things we don’t know about Fernandos, and several things we do: in Fernandos people are force-fed alcohol before dinner so that they say something moronic; in Fernandos women wear flowers on their heads (I think to demonstrate that they are ‘abroad’); in Fernandos kissing is greeted with the same wide-eyes giggling horror you might expect if you suggested a bit of cheeky unprotected anal after dessert. Really Fernandos is just the strange sunny limbo one woman is forced to briefly inhabit while she drinks piña coladas and looks unimpressed at some poor dick just trying to make conversation until she can finally escape the hell that is Take Me Out.
And she will, after she’s reappeared briefly in the studio to explain that yes, Tony was as crap as his ukulele solo hinted he would be. That done, she’s finally free. Farewell fembot. Maybe you’ll find love in the real world. We can but hope!