On the whole, television programmes are either compulsively viewable or irritatingly unbearable. However, every once in a while, there are telecasts that, magically, combine both of these characteristics, somehow managing to keep the viewer engaged while at the same time remaining utterly distasteful. However, after the decommissioning and demotion of some of the old guard, such as ‘Noel’s House Party’ and ‘The Chuckle Brothers’, the future of this hybrid TV programme seemed bleak. Somehow, though, through a minor miracle, a phoenix emerged from the ashes: ITV made Paddy McGuinness a presenter, and ‘Take Me Out’ was born – a speed-dating programme that manages to sate modern society’s hunger for voyeurism and schadenfreude.
The premise of ‘Take Me Out’ is beautifully simple: thirty single ladies of varying attractiveness are presented with a single guy, and, through the medium of buzzing, declare their verdict on whether they “no likey” or “do likey” – this resembles an emperor imparting his judgement on a noble fighter in the Coliseum, except that the noble fighter in this analogy is Dave, 25, from Plymouth, a plumber who still lives with his parents and has gout. If the plucky male makes it through to the final round, he can either reverse the tables and buzz out the remaining women, or, if he is really unlucky, go on a date with the last remaining coquette.
Yet, this is only the undercard. The main event is the clean-sweep: all thirty girls declaring themselves out. Not only does this render the male eternally humiliated, but watching him squirm, and hold back his tears as he realises that some of the most hideous and nauseating women in Great Britain do not find him attractive, induces a tangible uplifting feeling within the viewer.
Oh, and who could forget Paddy, the over-excited, auto-cue dependent host? Not only does he think it necessary to bellow every word, but his obsession with, and repetition of, catchphrases (“No likey, no lightey!” and “Turned off? Turn off!” to name but a few) reach levels of irritation only matched by the ‘Go Compare’ opera singer.
The women are unpleasant, the men are conceited, and the format is cruel. Nonetheless, this is what makes the programme so magical: if the women were beautiful, the men were humble, and the voting was done by secret ballot, from whence would the entertainment come? The show’s biggest weakness – the horrors it bestows upon the viewer – is, somehow, also its greatest strength. Yes, ‘Take Me Out’ is currently one of TV’s most grotesque shows, but while I am ‘turned off’, I cannot ‘turn off’.