It’s a phrase that strikes fear into the heart of sensible people everywhere: “No like-y, NO LIGHT-Y!’.
Let’s get one thing straight from the off: Take Me Out is probably one of the most horrendously sexist shows ever dreamed up by a bunch of TV executives. ‘Scraping the barrel’ doesn’t even come close.
For the hitherto uninitiated, Take Me Out is a dating game show. Basically, thirty dolled-up-to-the-nines girls compete with each other for the attention of Alpha Male, who descends onto the stage in a lift like a self-styled Adonis (usually to the tinny strains of some macho dance tune of their own selection playing over the speakers), before preening and posing like a deformed peacock with a superiority complex. The girls initially have a chance to ‘turn off their light’ – i.e. reject the bloke on the basis of his looks/special talents (‘special’ being the operative word) – over the course of each round, after which Alpha Male gets to choose which of the remaining girls he’d like to take out on a date, primarily on the basis of their looks and whatever saucy quips they may have had a chance to squeak out. There’s no denying that it’s fairly demeaning for all involved – even if they have chosen to be there of their own accord.
But here’s the rub: I. Cannot. Stop. Watching. It.
The thing is, it makes for absolutely brilliant TV. The tacky studio and bright lights are like a modern-day gladiatorial ring, with big boobs, skimpy dresses, and lipstick-smeared winning smiles as the warrior’s weapon(s) of choice. It’s watch-between-your-fingers telly, it’s an utterly horrible concept, but it’s bloody brilliant.
But if the UK version (hosted, it must be said, with more than a generous helping of tongue-in-cheek humour and amusing catchphrases by Paddy McGuinness) is car crash TV, then the Irish version is like a Jerry Bruckheimer co-ordinated multi-car pile-up on the M50. From presenter Ray Foley‘s smarmy, coy, eye-rolling, nauseating attempts at flirting with the ‘girls’ (who insist on calling him ‘Foley’ like it’s some sort of hip nickname – what’s wrong with ‘Ray’?!) to his nonsensical segues into the ad breaks, you’ll want to record every episode and put them in storage for fifty years, until someone invents the technology to reach into the telly and smack the object of your choosing ’round the gob.
Maybe the cringe factor is magnified tenfold on TV3’s version because it’s an Irish thing; the excruciating lack of self-confidence in most of the blokes who are spewed out of the ‘love lift’ is painful to watch, as they mumble shyly over montages of themselves playing GAA or washing their Honda Civics. Why, just last week, we met some young boyo from Cork who had his own name tattooed onto his arm, and another who described his selected date as ‘A lovely girl. Lovely legs, like a racehorse”. Then there’s the glaringly obvious disparity in budget with its UTV counterpart – the UK contestants actually get to go on holiday for their date, while the Irish couples are condemned to a drink in ‘SHIFTER’S!’, i.e. a made-up bar that’s basically a sofa and a few potted plants in a corner of the backstage area.
Oh, I don’t know. This post sounds like one long whinge, and maybe I’m putting too much thought to it – after all, wasn’t the brilliant Blind Date just an altered version of the same format? But either way, there’s no way I’m going to turn my light out for Take Me Out. It’s just far, far too entertaining – and we all need something to laugh at, right?