When I was growing up in the nineties, one of the staple Saturday night television shows was Blind Date hosted by the irritating yet brilliant Cilla Black. The show itself was unbelievably trashy, yet it remains ingrained in the heads of all who grew up watching it as a nostalgic view of what Saturday nights used to be like. Blind Date, like its modern day equivalent Take Me Out, became an addiction. This addiction is something that dating shows in general seem to have, no matter how trashy they may be.
Take Me Out is truly one of the shallowest of shows, boosting a format in which contestants are rated based on their looks. It’s a pretty horrible way of basing attraction but it’s a show that is, for millions of people, an essential part of their Saturday night viewing itinerary.
Late nineties Davina McCall vehicle Streetmate was similarly trashy and equally addictive. The show had McCall running through the streets roping in bystanders who then had to find a date based on attraction. The cringe factor was often increased during the regularly awkward rejections. It is possibly that cringe factor that makes these types of shows so addictive.
A prime example of the cringe factor is in Channel 4 hit series First Dates. The show is essentially what it says on the tin, a first date which has been set up on the shows website. It is often cringe tv at its finest with disastrous dates played out in all their glory. Sometimes we get a glimpse at true love developing but that’s not why we tune in, not if we’re being completely honest. We watch for the cringe factor.
If this cringe factor is truly the main ingredient that feeds our addiction towards dating shows then surely there is no finer example than ITVs Dinner Date. The format is simple. The contestant picks three prospective dates from five different menus. They then have a dinner at each of the three menu owner’s houses before picking one for a proper restaurant date. Essentially it’s a cross between First Dates and Come Dine with Me, which only goes to ramp up the cringe.
So it seems that the more a show makes us cringe, the more we keep on watching. First Dates is a prime example of how potentially uncomfortable a first date can be, which most of us can relate to in the dating world. So no matter how trashy the format or how irritating the host may be, it seems we just can’t get enough.