Put on your slanket, crack open the mini cheddars; it’s time for Take Me Out. Like Blind Date but with more innuendos that make less sense (“let the sugar see the puffs”), it revolves around thirty glammed-up women hoping to get a date with one of the single men who comes down the ‘love lift’ each week.
If the women don’t like what the men say, do or look like they can turn off lights situated on stands in front of them. “No likely, no lighty,” the audience chant, whenever host Paddy McGuiness gives them the cue (approximately every two minutes). If the men are too fat, too bald, too posh, live with their mums, or have hobbies like swing dancing or collecting No Doubt albums, off go the lights: piu, piu, piu…
In the final round, the tables are turned and the single man gets to turn off the lights of remaining women until there are only two left. Then he asks them a question – normally something stupid like “if you were an animal what kind of a noise would you make?” – and picks the one who gives the most rubbish response to go on a date with.
If all of the women turn their lights off, the man becomes a ‘blackout boy’ and gets to appear on the spin-off show, Take Me Out The Gossip, where he is given a make-over by Zoe Hardman. Otherwise, he walks off with his date, while the rest of the women do a dance (often to a song that goes “hurray, hurray, it’s a holi, holi-day”), before they head off to the Isle of Fernandos.
The Isle of Fernandos isn’t a real place. It’s Tenerife – I know because I’ve been there – but no one ever mentions this. The contestants also never get to go anywhere else – like Tuscany or the Algarve.
All dates start the same. The women admire the men’s toned chests (they are always toned) and the men say that the women look great in a bikini. Invariably, there is a water sport and an awkward conversation while sipping neon coloured cocktails and watching the sun set.
My sister, Nopes, calls Take Me Out “Single and Regional”. It’s tempting to call it “dreadful”, but then you start watching it and it becomes strangely addictive. Unlike Blind Date, the men and women never swap places. It’s always one man and thirty women, never thirty men and one woman. Unless the women end up on a date, they come back week after week, sometimes series after series, to resume their place in the line. They always stand in the same place. You get to know them.
The new series hasn’t been as good without Lois Barnett. Lois was a Riverboat Skipper studying Japanese who could make the noise of a fog horn and play the theremin. Unlike most of the other contestants, she looked uncomfortable in glitzy club wear – the show’s uniform – and had a deadpan sense of humour that you couldn’t make up (although cynics have suggested otherwise). She frequently kept her light on for the men. They invariably turned it off. “Seven times!” she cried at one point from the corner of the screen.
When Lois was finally picked to go on a date in the Take Me Out Christmas Special, what should have been a great moment was marred by the fact the person picking her was Joe Swash; a ‘celebrity’ who was clearly only there to promote himself. When it came to the post-date discussion, Joe appeared via video-link to tell Lois how great she was and insincerely apologise for the fact he couldn’t be there in person. Not only had a man who has eaten a crocodile penis in order to be crowned ‘King of the Jungle’ robbed Lois of the chance of a proper date, he had robbed us of the chance of ever seeing her again.