Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Leave me at home

Back in 1910, Winston Churchill (Tim Vine's main competition for the title 'King of the one-liner') said that the civilisation of a society can be judged by the way it treats its prisoners. A century later, the rules have changed - I believe that civilisation can be judged by what it's prepared to tolerate in the name of Saturday evening entertainment. If my contention is true, I fear we may all be living in caves and grunting at the moon by November.

Dating shows have always been a Saturday evening staple. Presumably, that's because the people who stay home to watch ITV, have long since left the meat market behind and settled into a life of mindless broadcasting and elasticated waistbands. If they ever find themselves fondly recalling the days when they were young, free and single, a show like Take Me Out reminds them that they're far better off trying to put the kids to bed and eating chicken jalfrezi out of a foil container.

Even so, it's hard to understand how anyone can happily sit through an entire hour of such mindless flirtation. Surely, if you were on the receiving end of such a graceless barrage of innuendo, you'd just close your eyes and wait for the rohypnol to kick in?

And yet every week, there's another line-up of willing contestants, with the kind of names that suggest their parents just reached into the green Scrabble tile bag and hoped for the best. It must be the easiest casting gig in the world - send a couple of production assistants to stand outside a GUM clinic with a giant butterfly net.

Given the raw materials they're working with, it's hardly surprising that what passes for wit on this show wouldn't give Stephen Fry any sleepless nights. Unless he's secretly spent half his life trying to perfect the armpit fart.

In reality, none of them are really there to find love, they're looking for a free trip to the enigmatically named 'Island of Love', Which is weird, because I always thought that Tenerife was the 'Island of burnt shins'. Blind Date suffered from the same problem - it tried to be a matchmaker show, but ultimately, it was just an easier way of getting a holiday than trying to navigate the Thomas Cook website.

It's a while since I've been clubbing (i.e. Whigfield was still in heavy rotation), but I clearly remember the horror of the witching hour - that awful moment when the lights finally came on and you realised you'd been flirting with Eric Stoltz from Mask. With precious few minutes to close the deal, you scan the dregs in the harsh light of almost-day, and take your pick. Now imagine doing that with a bovine studio audience mooing you on.

As if that wasn't bad enough, now some of the most 'popular' girls from the latest series of Take Me Out have appeared in Heat magazine without their warpaint. On the show, it's a case of hair by L'Oreal, face by Cuprinol - the untreated version is a million times worse. If their TV appearance is what you go home with, then this is what you'll be waking up with. And it's enough to drive you to a life of monastic contemplation.

I know, I know, I'm taking it all far too seriously. It's just a bit of fun. But that's what the travellers on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding said about grabbing. Take Me Out? Take Me Out And Shoot Me, more like.

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