No more likey, no more lighty! Farewell to the brilliant Take Me Out

Like being out at a club at 2am, the silly, fun dating show has been hotting up Saturday night TV for over a decade. Its cancellation should be mourned

Reader, remember this day. Look around you. Notice how all the people look a little glummer, how the branches droop a little lower. Commit all these sights and smells to memory, because one day your grandchildren will ask you what the world was like when ITV cancelled Take Me Out.

It is inexplicable, but true. Take Me Out is dead. After 10 years, ITV has announced that no more episodes will be made, with a source telling the Sun that “ITV and Paddy have done all the specials you can eke out of a dating show, so it’s been decided it’s time for it to go”.

Admittedly, the writing had been on the wall for a while. The most recent series was kept on the shelf for more than a year before it was broadcast. Paddy McGuinness has switched channels and embraced dad TV in all its glory as a host of Top Gear. Saturday night TV as an institution is struggling, so the show has not been enjoying the support it once did. But you would have to be a monster not to be a little sad about its death.

Take Me Out has – had – a purity that isn’t often found on dating shows. In fairness, it took me a while to realise this. When it began in 2010, I watched with a kind of baffled horror. Before Take Me Out, I had assumed that the dating show had realised its perfect form in Blind Date: a nice, formal, sexless programme where the dater and datee at least interacted before they were flown off on holiday together.

Take Me Out was not that show. Take Me Out was more like 2am in a rubbish provincial nightclub. A man was dragged in front of 30 women, many of whom would reject him on sight. So, he kept adjusting his expectations, impressing them with tales of his laddish idiocy, until someone – anyone – accepted him as a potential mate. There was a peacocking desperation to Take Me Out that made it more visceral than Blind Date.

But the show adapted as it went on. Slowly, it morphed from a show about trying to get laid to a show about women having fun. McGuinness softened his edges and developed a slightly paternal air. He gently teased the women and threw a consolatory arm around the men when they were rejected. Take Me Out was never going to win awards for sensitivity, but it was warm, silly and fun.

It was influential, too. A raft of imitators sprang up. There was Baggage (where people eliminated potential dates based on the complications of their private life). There was Sing Date (where people had to perform duets with each other). There was The Love Machine (which I won’t even try to explain for fear of wasting valuable internet). All these shows wanted a slice of Take Me Out’s pie, but they couldn’t match its infectiousness.

And now it has gone. I blame Love Island. The dating show has moved on. We want shows that explore people’s feelings in depth, rather than the superficial wham-bam of Take Me Out. But surely there is room for both. Love Island, which is broadcast six nights a week, is a terrible time commitment, all just to watch a load of bored people get off with each other on holiday. Take Me Out was always a confection. It was breezy, it was fun, it was over in an hour. But, apparently, this is not enough.

If there is a silver lining to any of this, it is that Take Me Out’s death might strike a blow for other tired TV formats. If ITV can ditch a show as entertaining as this, surely The X Factor can’t be too far behind. Or Bake Off. Or The Apprentice. This could be the start of a great moment of deck-clearing for TV. If that proves to be the case, Take Me Out’s death may not have been in vain.

But still, it is sad to see it go. Never again will we watch a man come down a tube dancing to Jamiroquai. Never again will we visit the mystical isle of Fernando’s. Never again will we hear the immortal phrase “No likey, no lighty”. Take Me Out, you may be gone, but you will not be forgotten.


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

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