You might know it as ITV's attempt to relight the fire that burned so brightly in our hearts for Blind Date. You might know it as the crass, anti-intellectual scourge of Saturday night TV, a post-X factor comedown so stomach-convulsing that Stuart Heritage, writing in the Guardian, called it 'the very worst thing that has ever happened to planet Earth.' You might even have written a sniffy essay about it for your sociology degree.
In all of these cases you'd be dead wrong. For the uninitiated, Take Me Out is a dating show, hosted by Paddy "flat vowels" McGuinness off of Phoenix Nights. A single lad, dressed in his own choice of appalling suit, comes down the "love tube" (yep), to 50 single girls stood behind podiums. Each of them wears so much foundation they could have had a skin graft, and tiny, shiny dresses. The boy displays his mediocre personality and 'special talent' (sings a Westlife song, breakdances, farts the theme tune to the Bill) whilst one-by-one the girls turn their podium lights off in disgust, signalling they have no desire to copulate with this man.
When questioned on their decision by ringmaster McGuinness, the girls give an obligingly honest, and sometimes borderline xenophobic answer - an Irish lad might get "he just reminds me of a leprechaun! Sorreh!", etc. At the end, the few girls still willing to do the dirty are patrolled by the 'lucky' boy, as he turns off the lights of the chubby, big-toothed and weird-faced amongst them. Left with the two fittest, he listens to some arbitrary fact from Paddy ('one of the girls' last boyfriend was a boxer!' etc), before selecting the most attractive to be his mate. He then drags her off to his cave/takes her on holiday to the "Island of Fernandos", which, judging by the flashback VT the following week, appears to be a particularly soul-destroying corner of the Costa Del Sol.
It is a celebration of all that is Northern, no bullshit, down-to-business, eat-yer-chips and fook off. There's no hand holding, and thank God, no emotional journeying.
All of this makes Take Me Out one of the best light entertainment shows to come along in the last few years, maybe even the decade. It is a celebration of all that is Northern, no bullshit, down-to-business, eat-yer-chips and fook off. There's no hand holding, and thank God, no emotional journeying. There's not a Trinny or Susannah on hand to tell the guy he's got to 'heal himself' and learn to 'deal with rejection'. The biggest emotional journey for these girls and boys will be going from Peach Schnapps to neat vodka later that night.
What's more, there's no false fucking about with 'feelings'. It makes explicit our very base desire to fornicate, based only on looks and occasionally wallet size. None of these plonkers are looking for love, they're looking to get on TV, and maybe get a holiday and a shag out of it. It's the televisual equivalent of McGuinness going up to some scantily-clad bird in Huddersfield Wetherspoons and saying "my mate thinks your fit. Can he 'ave your numbeh?" It is an honest mirror of our grimy, self-interested, shallow, but ultimately shitloads of fun dating culture.
Look, I'm all for Mad Men, I have the Sopranos boxset, I watch QI; but Saturday night is not the place for "quality". It's the place for raucous, pissed-up, base-level fun. You might tut at the TV when McGuinness shouts his laboured catchphrase "no likey, no lighty!" or when one of the fellaz, clad in an all white trouser suit, starts humping the floor to the tune of 'I'm Too Sexy', but for all this and more, ITV, I salute you.
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