I was lying down on my sofa the other day, head buried into the armrest, feet up on the wall, intensely watching television, covered in crumbs – as I often like to do. I heard the front door go and my flatmate poked his head in; “What are you watching?” he said. I turned my head to look at him (at a great effort, it must be said) and jutted my bottom lip out. “A dating show,” he correctly guessed, before sighing, and I turned my head back to the television without saying anything.
It has become an unhealthy obsession of mine – all I fucking watch is dating shows. That’s pretty much it. There’s one (sometimes two) on every single night so you don’t ever have to watch anything else – you can fill up an entire week’s worth of evenings with a carefully curated backlog of terrible television – my diary is packed.
This current situation does have its upside though – I can now claim myself an expert in dating shows, because I’ve seen them all. So to at least make something worthwhile (haha, “worthwhile”) come out of my obsession, here is a definitive ranking of all the dating shows currently on television, in order of worst to best. By “currently”, I mean: those in the midst of a series now, have been on in the last year or are returning very soon. Warning, some of them are wild.
15. Dating Naked
Two people meet on a beach, and almost immediately are required to strip completely naked and go on a date. Is this possibly the greatest idea in the history of television? Yes, correct, it is, so obviously I immediately chucked on an episode of this after damn near having a heart-attack over the synopsis (“How did your flatmate die?” “Oh, him? Not really sure, we found him covered in Pringles on the sofa, his hand had crushed the remote clean in two.”).
Unfortunately, all the nudity is blurred so the entire thing is rendered pointless and upon realising this I instantly turned the TV off and went down the shop to get more snacks.
On an interesting note, there is an identical show called Adam & Eve from the Netherlands which doesn’t faff around with any blurring or anything. Much better.
Currently on UKTV.
14. Are You The One?
This is a peculiar case of a dating show that has a premise that suits my preferences, but I couldn’t really get past two or three episodes. The idea is that a bunch of girls and guys are matched “scientifically” according to their interests and personalities, only they’re not told the outcome – they have to find it out themselves. If everyone correctly guesses, they win $1 million to split between them.
Not really sure why this didn’t tickle my fancy, but it’s probably something to do with the amount of American douches on it. Like, real bro-go sticks, constantly lifting up their shirts to reveal six-packs – it’s all a bit much. I much prefer UK-based “lads” – way more fun to watch, and even potentially something I aspire to be, if I’m fully being honest with myself here.
Currently on MTV.
13. Game Of Clones
This is a fantastic idea – a person essentially “designs” their perfect person using a computer program, and then eight people are found who match the profile, before all being dressed and styled in exactly the same way. It’s a rare dating show where pretty much the only thing the daters have to go by is their personality, because they all look the same.
Fantastic idea, yes, but it takes a whole week to find out who gets picked. That’s too much, too stretched-out, too TL;DR. Each episode should be an hour long, and it should be a different group of people each time – that way I’d watch it. A week is a long time to spend with a lot of people who often have zero personality. Bit of a misfire, this one.
Currently on E4.
12. Celebs Go Dating
This show lives and dies on its celebrities, and it runs the gamut of quality and not so quality personalities. Highlights this time around obviously include Joey Essex, who is one of God’s most hilarious creations, and Jonathan Cheban, who is undyingly fascinating to me (also, this is my first experience of him on television, might have to watch that Kardashian thing now).
Overall though, the whole thing is a tad pointless, because you know that none of the celebs are ever gonna end up getting off with a prole. I suppose it’s fun seeing how people react to celebs on dates, or how utterly out of touch some famous people are with real life, but in the end, it’s just not real enough for me. I only deal in real emotions. Might put that on my Tinder bio.
Currently on E4.
This is a pretty unremarkable (and often rather boring) dating show, but thankfully it’s elevated by having people strip down to their underwear and sit awkwardly on a bed during the date. They’re then required to go through a couple of rote challenges like “Get in this yoga position” or “Have a kiss” or “Pop a thumb up each other’s botty”, before they finally decide if they want to see each other again.
Probably the best thing about this show is watching the terribly awkward and self-conscious positions that people contort themselves into on the bed, whilst simultaneously sucking in their stomachs. It’s wonderful to see someone trying to act casual when the only part of their body that is upright is their head.
Not currently on but may return in the future.
10. Love At First Kiss
I was a very big fan of The Office, and loved all the awkward, cringeworthy comedy, but when Extras came along, I couldn’t watch it all because it was too uncomfortable. Yes, a bit of awkwardness is great, but it can easily get too much. This show is the Extras of dating shows.
Essentially, two people meet in a room for the first time and have to kiss each other immediately. It is watch-through-your fingers horrendous, and often I can’t handle a whole episode because it all gets too much. Turn the sound on and just look at this:
“Thanks for kissing me” is what I’m going to get on my gravestone.
Currently on TLC.
9. Dating In The Dark
The genius idea behind this show is simple: people stumbling around in pitch black is funny, isn’t it? Yes, you are correct, ideas-person, it is. Boiled down to a simple high concept, Dating In The Dark involves a bunch of people in a house, males separated from females, only to meet in a pitch-black room to go on dates. Then at the end they pick someone to see in the light, before deciding if they want to go on a date outside the house.
The main problem with this show is that it purports to take “looks” out of the equation, to discover if true love can come from within. Only thing is, the last ten minutes negates all of that and every single contestant reverts back to judging people by their face, every single time. Nobody ever learns a valuable lesson, everybody is shallow. Pointless experiment.
Still, one thing that it’s always worth watching for is when someone pretends they’re not in the room and frightens the other person as they come in. That is 100% what I would do.
Not currently on, but sure to return. Fingers crossed, anyway.
8. The Undateables
One of Channel 4’s smash hits of the past few years, it’s easy to see why the show has become so popular. It’s funny, sweet, and yeah, it’s going to make you cry. You’re going to do a cry and you’re going to realise that in the grand scheme of things, your personal dating problems are not really that bad, are they? Stop your moaning.
It’s also introduced us to some bona-fide stars, in particular, everyone’s favourite human, Daniel Wakeford, who’s even released albums off the back of the show.
I guess the only reason it’s not higher on this arbitrary list is that I have a horrible, sneaking suspicion that the original idea behind it may have been a little exploitative, that’s all.
Available to watch here.
7. Kiss, Bang, Love
This is a new discovery of mine, and woah Nelly am I glad I’ve found it. It’s essentially Love At First Kiss but with blindfolds on. This makes it less awkward somehow, and also it’s Australian and I love Australians. One person kisses ten others, then decides who they want to take on a date.
It’s brilliant, because not only do you get the just-about-bearable awkwardness of first kisses between strangers, you also get the stumbling-around-knocking-into-things hilarity of Dating In The Dark.
Also, you might notice it’s called Kiss, BANG, Love, which is a bit rude. But the strange thing is, it appears that they do actually “bang”, I think. In the final, there are two overnight dates, and come on, they must have sex? Why bother staying overnight? It’s never spoken about, but it’s in the actual name of the show. I think that is great. As I said, I love Australians.
Currently on Lifetime.
6. Love Island
In this one, they definitely do bang. And you see it, lips getting licked and all. In this ITV2 show, couples pair up and have to prove that they’re really into each other, otherwise the public vote them off the island and they won’t win a cash prize – if that means doing a live sex in front of the nation, then so be it.
This is a pivotal member of the very specific Geordie Shore-style television contingent – full of scantily clad ladies, topless muscly men, lots of alcohol and giant, screeching rows over nothing. It is wonderful, and contestants are presumably recruited with an application form that consists solely of the question: “Would you cut off your nose to spite your face?” Those that tick yes are strongly considered and those that aggressively swill whoever handed them the form are immediately fast-tracked to final auditions.
Season 1 is available on Sky Box Sets and it’s coming back to ITV2 later this year.
5. Dinner Date
Ah, the old reliable. Always on, at any time during the day – it’s an extraordinary example of a PG-rated dating show that is endlessly watchable. The premise involves a singleton going round for dinner with three people, entirely based on the menus that they’ve put together. To begin with, there are five potential menus, so two unlucky daters don’t even get the chance to fuck up their soufflé.
Then at the end one person is chosen and they both go out on a proper date at a restaurant, while the rejects get ready meals and a depressingly small bottle of wine to tearfully strawpedo as soon as the camera crew leaves.
If there’s anything wrong with the show, it’s that some people are bad losers, and they sometimes chuck away the ready meal, which annoys me to the very core of my brain stem. It’s like they’re personally making fun of my life.
Currently on ITVBe, always, every day, forever.
4. Naked Attraction
Easily the most fascinating show on the list, this frankly unfathomable programme is essentially Undressed, but it doesn’t stop at the underwear. Real, live, naked human beings are stood in plastic pods which open at various stages, revealing a different part of their anatomy, which is then judged in excruciating detail by a member of the public, the presenter, and me, at home, eating my Pringles, also naked.
You get full-on, zoomed-in, hi-def examinations of knobs, fannies, tits and arses, which are then critiqued before the least attractive ones are unceremoniously booted off. Naked. The losers have got to do a fully nude embarrassing walk of shame, Cersei Lannister-style out of the studio, and presumably into the car park, where they freeze to death.
I LOVE this show.
Available to watch here and returning to Channel 4 soon.
3. Ex On The Beach
If you thought Love Island held the crown for under-the-sheets shagging, think again – the sheer amount of frenzied rutting that drenches this show is breathtaking. To sum it up, a bunch of lads and ladies head to a beach-side villa under the “pretense” that they’re on some other type of show (no they’re not, they know fully well exactly what they’ve signed up for, let’s just drop this part for the next series, yeah?), then once there, an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend will appear from the sea every episode to wreak havoc. That’s it. That’s all that happens. There is no winner, no cash prize; just fights, night-vision thrusting and more drinks knocked over than a seven-year-old’s birthday party.
It is horrendous and makes me despair for the human race, yet I fully adore it in every possible way imaginable – there is simply nothing else quite like it on television. Apart from maybe Spring Break With Grandad, but that’s not a dating show, so I can't talk about it here. I could write a whole novel on it, though.
Currently on MTV.
2. Take Me Out
This is the king of cheesy, colourful, harmless dating shows and the rightful successor to Blind Date (which is coming back, by the way, and I’m so excited I could headbutt a bowling ball). You know how it goes, but here’s a recap for the tragically uninitiated: a terrified man is dropped, prone, in front of 30 rabid females and essentially told to dance in front of them over a number of rounds. At the end of each round, the girls choose whether or not to turn off their lights – “No likey, no lighty”. Then at the end, if there is more than one girl with her light on, the man decides who he likes best and takes them on a date.
It’s already a great idea for a show, but the jewel in the crown is Paddy McGuinness as the host. His inoffensive everyman persona is a perfect fit and his rapport with the girls is second-to-none. He does an absolutely bang up job, in my book. My book is called How To Effectively Hoover Crumbs Off A Sofa, FYI.
Available to watch here, and returning to my gormless, dead eyes very soon.
1. First Dates
This is it. The best dating show on telly. A restaurant full of people on first dates – some are filmed, some are not. The end. So simple, yet so effective.
It has everything: awkwardness, laughter, sadness, happiness, anger, annoyance, softly spoken quotes about love from a charming French man, waiting staff “larking” about, and most importantly of all, sometimes genuine love. The beginnings of actual love blossoming before your eyes on television, what a beautiful thing. We should be thankful for this show – it really highlights the good in this world.
I mean, it’s also full of massive twats to hurl abuse at, but it’s the love we’re all here for, isn’t it?
If there’s a downside to the show, it’s that every time there are very old people on it, I cry. Luckily I’m usually watching it in a dark room with the curtains drawn and a chair jammed under the door handle, so nobody is around to see, but still.
Available to watch here, and very obviously returning this year.