Love Shaft, E4, review

Love in an elevator? The contestants on this show will be trying to live it down as they're going up...

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As an elevator pitch, “A dating game show set entirely in a lift” makes Alan Partridge’s desperate “Monkey Tennis” sound quite reasonable. So expect to see those primates smacking balls at one another on a TV screen near you soon, because last night E4 unveiled its new series Love Shaft…

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The slick characters seen in the opening credits suggest a Mad Men-level of suavity – but this is a dating show, in Britain, in 2012, so instead of sharp-dressed sophisticates snatching kisses on their way to the penthouse, we get young blokes, topless except for a bow-tie, or introducing themselves with killer chat-up lines like “I’m s**tting myself”.

But how exactly does this lift-based twist on Blind Date go down? Well, a single girl or guy takes an elevator ride to the penthouse suite (read student union bar), stopping at each floor to cast an eye over a new prospective suitor and deciding whether to swap him for her current travelling companion, all too aware that when she reaches the top whoever she’s left with will be her date. 

According to the voice of the lift (Think Snog Marry Avoid’s Pod, but far less arch and witty), this week’s shaftee Olivia had a background in Italian royalty and footballers. 

On the first floor she met Prat who was punished for his relentlessly cheesy chat by being made to dance to elevator music before being predictably shafted a floor later.

Presumably, the idea of Love Shaft is that in the close confines of a lift things get steamy between the two occupants (hopefully they don’t get gassy). Instead, as they head to the next floor, the pair stand silently next to one another looking uncomfortable in exactly the same way that any strangers in a lift do.

What happens between floors is at least a bit more entertaining. On one stop, Olivia is blindfolded and strips down to a bikini top while an old lady, a dwarf and her current suitor take it in turns to give her a massage (yes, you’re getting a flavour of this now, aren’t you?).  

On another, Olivia’s mum joins her at a desk to conduct a disturbingly saucy interrogation of her new potential beau. “Have you ever had sex in your parents bedroom?” she asks him. “Isn’t that incest?” is his brilliant comeback. “Children grow up to look like their parents – do you fancy me?” Sensibly he avoids answering that one.

These wacky sketches are interspersed with comments from Olivia’s mates, currently living it up in the penthouse bar. They don’t have much to say until the final “date” when, in a clever twist (the producers should be careful not to blow all their ideas at once), the guy waiting for Olivia is someone she’s known and refused to date for 15 years. Or, as the friend puts it, “a stalker”.

In the lift, he makes a BLT sandwich while reciting a poem about Olivia to demonstrate his inability to multi-task. But he’s the only one left so he gets to go on the date anyway (two minutes of stilted conversation over a glass of wine in a gloomy bar).

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Next week we’re apparently to be treated to a man who spends the entire show naked but for a modest-sized spiky pineapple resting between his legs. If any of the girls he meets on his journey do float his boat he could be in for a painful ride. But, then again, so will the viewers.