Arts & Books

TV review: Begging for votes in love and politics

Paddy McGuinness, the host of Take Me Out

There’s been a lot of argument about having leaders’ debates for the general election – and some of the problem has been the question of format. I think I have a solution.

Every Saturday night at 8.25pm, the Stanley family gathers to watch ITV’s Take Me Out. The premise is simple: a boy has to strut his stuff in front of 30 girls, each of whom stands behind an electric light that indicates her romantic interest. After he’s come on dancing like a drunk dad, a few of the lights go out. Then we see a film about his home life, usually narrated by a mum pleading for someone else to take care of him (“He is 32 now”) – and yet more lights go off.

Finally, he performs his special skill. And be it skateboarding, yodelling or forging his mum’s signature on cheques, there are usually only a couple of lights left on. Then it’s his turn to choose the lucky girl that he’s going to take to a romantic location that is cleverly filmed to look like Barbados but is almost certainly Bognor.

My favourite people on this show are the girls who are so desperate for a date that even if the contestant turns out to be a one-legged Nazi, they still keep their lights on. And yet he still doesn’t pick them. They are invariably plump – and this is one of the many truths that Take Me Out teaches us about gender relations. Even the ugliest men think they’re worth more than a slightly overweight girl; the contestants who most claim to be “looking for more than looks” will pick a thin blonde idiot over a tubbier sophisticate every time.

And, unsurprisingly, the date rarely works out. Roles are quickly reversed, and it’s the woman’s turn to be choosy. “All he
did was talk about himself” is a common complaint.

Can this hilarious, compelling format not be adapted to serve the television debates? I’d love to see Dave, Ed, Nick and Nigel woo us as the lights slowly go out. Although I, again, predict disappointment on the date. “Nigel never said he was a smoker…”

This article first appeared in the latest edition of the Catholic Herald magazine (13/3/15).

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