What becomes of the broken hearted? asked Motown crooner Jimmy Ruffin back in the 60s. These days, they end up on primetime dating shows. Yes, if Cupid’s arrows have been falling wide of the mark and the world of online romance has thrown up more scammers than suitors, the lonesome can always turn to those modern-day matchmakers, TV’s light entertainment commissioning editors, and try to find love in the studio.
Game shows pegged around romance have been with us since The Dating Game in the 1970s, which patented the formula of a lone singleton asking innuendo-laced questions of three potential mates on primetime TV.
Mind you, since those heady days there have been all manner of innovative formats devoted to matters of the heart showcased on the box, the latest of which is Channel 4’s Come Date with Me, which began this week. The show sees a single lady whittle down five suitors from Monday to Friday, eliminating one chap per night until she finds her beau. It’s a novel way to go about finding a partner, but it’s far from the only off-the-wall romance show to see the light of a cathode ray.
And so, in tribute to mankind’s unceasing fascination with love and nosing into other people’s private lives, here are our all-time favourite dating show formats…
1. Take Me Out
One part love shack, one part cattle market, ITV’s latest foray into the world of dating is a gloriously crass Saturday-night ode to the fickle nature of love. Its format is simple: 30 single women congregate in a studio, each armed with a light that they can either leave on or switch off to demonstrate their reaction to a single man the producers have wheeled on to impress them. If none of the women leave their light on to symbolise interest, and what the programme calls a “blackout” occurs, the poor chap is packed off home to his Baywatch posters and microwave meals-for-one, but should a suitor impress the ladies enough to keep their lights on throughout his patter, he gets the pick of which lass to take on a date. Yes it’s crude and possibly a little cruel, but who could stay angry with a show whose catchphrase is the gloriously inane “no likey, no lighty”?
And finally, the simplest dating show ever to grace the British television screen. Take Davina McCall (or Holly Willoughby for one series) and a camera crew out onto the streets of Britain, get them to find a single person, then lead that singleton around to eye up people they fancy around town. If the person they decide that they fancy is also single, send them on a date and record their reactions the following day. Rinse and repeat. Simples, as that blinking meerkat might have put it.
So, what’s your favourite TV dating show? Ever been on one and want to share your experiences? Don’t keep it all bottled up, post a comment and share the love…