“I don’t think it’s been done before!” exclaimed the publicist when my (evidently sadistic) editor suggested I become the first woman to take part in the “Love Lift experience” during a visit to the set of Take Me Out. And so my trauma began.
The Love Lift, for those who don’t know, is the metal cylinder that transports eligible men into the Take Me Out studios, so they can perform a sort of mating dance in front of the women, or the “flirty thirty” as they are referred to on the show.
Sadly, I had forgotten that I would need to choose a song to dance to as I rode in the lift, so with one minute to decide I went for He’s the Greatest Dancer by Chic. A great song, but in hindsight it would have been a lot more fun if I’d gone for something really, really off-tone like Smack My Bitch Up by The Prodigy.
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I stepped gingerly into the lift. “Welcome to my world,” whispered the production guy with a wide grin, before apologising for sounding weird. With that, he played the music and the Love Lift began to descend at an excruciatingly slow pace.
So, naturally, I panicked and did an unrecognisable impression of Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Because that’s obviously the appropriate response in a crisis situation.
While I have banned the footage of my “entrance dance” from appearing on the internet, there’s no such luck for the male contestants who actually have to do this on national television in front of Paddy McGuinness, a few million viewers at home and their potential wife.
“Why? Why did you agree to this?” I hear you cry. Well, because the tenth series of Take Me Out is launching and I wanted to celebrate it, obviously.
Series ten will include two specials. One is with an older crowd, and will feature a line-up of “golden girls” looking for “silver foxes”.
In the second, thirty boys from past series return to the show and, in a format flip, will be behind the podiums hoping for another chance at finding “The One”.
Impressively, seven weddings and three babies have come out of the dating show over its run. McGuinness was bowled over by this when he went to meet a little girl who’d been conceived by a Take Me Out couple. “She wouldn’t have been born had her parents not met on Take Me Out. Blows me mind, that,” he told me during some downtime in his dressing room.
“I was like, ‘You wouldn’t be here, little person, if they hadn’t applied to come on the show!’”
Did he feel like God? “I wouldn’t go that far. No. No, I don’t feel like god. NO. Certainly not god.”
Cupid might be a more accurate comparison than God, but despite the aforementioned marriages and offspring, not everyone is loved up when they fly off to the “Isle of FERNANDO’s!” (a fictional location based in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife).
Quite the opposite. As I gleaned from the talkative cabbie who dropped me to Maidstone Studios – the very same taxi driver who takes the boys and girls in separate cars to the airport straight after each recording – the guys often have doubts. He said that they moan about picking the wrong girl and are dreading being stuck with them on a filmed first date in a foreign country.
Interestingly – and remarkably – he’d never heard any of the girls have second doubts about the guys they were paired with which, having seen some of the boys on the show, is hard to believe.
As part of my set visit, I was ushered into “Girl World” – the women’s dressing room and chill-out area where no boys are allowed to set foot. It was an intoxicating haze of sweet perfume, fake tan, waxed legs, impossibly pert breasts, sequins, squealing and laughter. The beautifying process, I discovered, is intense: it begins at 10am every morning to have the girls ready for a 7pm recording.
According to hair and make-up, no one wants to look like Kate Moss anymore, it’s all about Kim K: lots of girls come in with bum fillers. The process proves too exhausting for some, and when I interviewed some of the hopeful singles in the chill-out area, we were occasionally interrupted by loud snores and grunts erupting from a girl who was asleep on the couch, with a full face of make up, her hair in curlers and wearing a dressing gown.
The interviews with Tanya and Diana, two girls carefully selected for me, mostly consisted of the pair of them repeating how unbelievably amazing the production team are at Take Me Out. “Seriously, like, 100%, amazing.” Are there ever catfights in Girl World? “No. Never. Never!”
Over in Boy World, I got a bit more gossip out of McGuinness who, after all his years on the show, has learned a great deal about first impressions. “The one common theme throughout all the series is girls don’t like it when a bloke lives with his mum. That never changes, that one,” he told me.
“And I feel sorry if a guy is quite short. The girls don’t like that either. Those are the two things that over ten series never change.
“My mum’s passed away now, God rest her soul, but as a bloke, I lived with my mum ’til I was, like, 28 years of age. I loved it. It was fantastic! Mums are the best thing ever! I was a proper mummy’s boy.”
He’s been presenting Take Me Out for seven years now, since the show’s launch in 2010, can he seem himself doing it forever? “No doubt one day you’ll see me with a kangaroo’s penis in me mouth,” he said.
“When the work dries up.”
Oh, he was talking about I’m a Celebrity. Has he ever been asked to be on it?
“No. I’ll take that as a badge of honour.”
The tenth series of Take Me Out begins on Saturday 6th January at 7pm on ITV