Right, that’s it, it’s finally happened. The doctor just called and confirmed. I have Reality TV Dating Show Fatigue, a rare disorder that primarily affects TV reviewers and people whose girlfriends watched not one but both seasons of Too Hot to Handle. “A single episode of Celebs Go Dating on E4 has enough scenes of men in skinny jeans guessing the age of girls they are on dates with to kill you,” the doctor warned me. It is incredibly medically inadvisable that I do this – I have an EMT on hand and they’ve already dialled two nines – but: I am going to watch the first episode of the Katherine Ryan-fronted Ready to Mingle (Monday, 9pm, ITV2).
I was smart in primary school, and though that tailed off a lot during secondary I did manage to get OK A-levels, and I have a degree and I read a fair amount of books, so intellectually I think I am in decent enough shape. I am never going to be a change-the-world genius, but I think I’m bright enough to get through a dinner party without embarrassing myself. That said, I thought all this right up until I tried to understand the rules of Ready to Mingle, which … hold on, go through them one more time …
So there is a central woman, our mingler: the bright and beautiful Sophia, a design student from Brighton, who is single in that very damaged reality TV show fashion and has decided that the only way to now find love is to go through an elaborate, villa-based deduction game, a sort of horny Cluedo. And there are 12 boys, whom we spend more than half of the opening episode meeting. How many personal trainers will I watch throw their shirt off in front of a neon backdrop before I die? How many straightforward labourers with perfect teeth will I see rub their hands in slow motion before I succumb to the abyss?
Over the course of three weeks she has to deduce whether they are single and, ideally, fall in love with one of them along the way. If they are single, and they win the dating show, Sophia and the boy split the money. If they are not single, the boy and his actual partner split the money instead. Mustering the strength to semi-explain this has almost certainly pushed some more vital knowledge out of my head. I’m going to wake up tomorrow and not know what geography is.
I mean, it’s fine. It’s a Reality TV Dating Show. It has all the exact aesthetic markers of Love Island (white plastic wine glasses, men with six-packs sleeping in the same room, leather jackets worn like capes, conversations primarily held next to a swimming pool), but embellished with 2021’s favourite TV dynamic: “Someone is lying and you need to figure out who” (see: The Circle, or my personal TV highlight, This Is My House).
Katherine Ryan is doggedly keeping this train on the tracks – she is both the absolutely-loving-the-carnage presenter and the sniping narrator – and answers the question that TV executives must be asking themselves: “What if the host of Love Island actually enjoyed the show?”
This is all fine. But I can’t do this any more. This show lasts three weeks and my legs are already beset with tremors. Enjoy your little Reality TV Dating Show; I’m unplugging my laptop and heading towards the sea.