There are a lot of things you have to get over before you start watching ITV's Take Me Out. Before you come to realise that it is the best thing to happen to dating shows since Cilla Black, you have to understand, and furthermore, accept, that it is the most unavoidably sexist premise for a TV programme ever. Think about it; 30 girls get to judge a man, firstly on appearance, secondly on a two minute snippet of his personality and thirdly on a 'talent' that he has. Do you need more proof that, on paper, it's horrendous? If so, just imagine what it would be like if the tables were turned. No TV boss in their right mind would go for it; 30 men eyeing up a woman, turning off a light if she doesn't meet their shag-standards? Unlikely isn't even the word. There would be an uproar. Germaine Greer would go on some kind of feminist pyromaniac bra binge and burn La Senza to the ground.
Somehow though, the other way round, it works. Paddy McGuinness's utterly brilliant introductions - "let the sausage see the roll", for example, or "let the shepherd see the pie" - are enough to hold the whole thing together, even if it didn't work, but it does. The girls on the show are pretty and clever and often come out with some brilliant one-liners.
Men, on the other hand, are often humiliated on Take Me Out for their shortcomings - too short, too tall, too fat, too thin, a bit too nice, a bit too weird, that sort of thing. On occasion, it still makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Alright girls, we've been shat on from a height for centuries, but is this really the way to even the score? Probably not, is always my answer to this internal question. But that was before this week's Take Me Out. Never, in the history of COMEUPPANCE, has anyone had it coming to him quite like Saturday night's Damion, who was humiliated for being... a prick.
I went out on Saturday, and didn't watch the original airing of the show, but before I left the house to embark upon the snowiest drinking session of my life, I checked Facebook. Comments were stacking up on the homepage about one of the Take Me Out contestants, all bearing the same sentiment: 'What a cock.'
On Sunday afternoon, my housemate Poppie and I pulled out the sofa bed, surrounded ourselves with so much food that we knew we wouldn't have to move for several hours, and began watching it on catch up. We took great guilty pleasure in checking out the slamming body of a basketballing, bedreadlocked Greenpeace fundraiser, openly swooned over a heavily tattooed Elvis impersonator and were slightly creeped out by a chip shop owner from Belfast who kept the relics of former conquests in his bedside drawer. Each time a new man came down the lift, we turned to each other and said, 'This must be the dickhead.'
They weren't the dickhead though; he came out right at the end. At first, I was taken in. OK, so he wasn't exactly my type. He was textbook good looking, apart from some serious orthodontic issues (always a dealbreaker), he wore inoffensive clothes, he talked about his ideal date being at the beach (aw) and how much he liked his family (shucks). So far, so someone's dream man. In spite of the fact that he clearly loved himself to the point where he'd rather masturbate over his personalised number plate than have sex with his girlfriend, which was probably why he didn't have one, a hefty number of girls kept their lights on for him.
Damion didn't have a talent - what an interesting chap - so instead the buck was passed to his 'best friend', who filmed a short VT explaining that Damion 1) went out with Jodie Marsh and 2) loved the press attention that this relationship brought him. Now I don't know about you, but at this point I was thinking never mind a girlfriend, Damion should probably get some new friends. Alas, performing the worst talent of all time - blowing spit bubbles, maybe, or farting the alphabet - would have been less detrimental to his Take Me Out credentials than this information. Lights were going off like bedtime at Brownie camp. He was finally left with four women who were still willing to go on a date with him, lights ablazing. Paddy walked over to Lucy, a brunette with her light switched off, and asked her why she'd opted out. She replied that she wasn't as wild as Jodie Marsh. And this is where shit gets real. Damion turned to her and said, 'I was going to pick you Lucy. Right from the start.'
I was expecting some kind of crazy ass Deal or No Deal style crescendo, where Paddy, acting in the place of the banker, allowed Lucy to come back into the game and gamble on a date to the Isle of Fernandos.
Instead, McGuinness turned to the other girls and said 'Technically... he's saying you're second best.' At this point, Poppie and I were picking up our jaws off the floor. He moved on to Chelsea, asking her if she regretted leaving her light on. She replied, 'Well, after he said that... yeah. I was going to let him off for the Jodie Marsh thing - everyone makes mistakes, but...' Oh, how we gasped in amazement. And it just got worse and worse. Paddy scooted over to another girl with her light left on, who sarcastically wondered whether she could compete with Lucy.
Lucy said she felt really awkward. In an attempt to defend himself, he said that he fancied something different, as he 'always' attracted blondes and that 'Lucy was the best of the brunettes.' Lucy put her head in her hands. So did I. Paddy reminded the girls that they couldn't turn their own lights off, and then told Damion to turn off the lights of the girls who didn't 'papa' his 'razzi' (I told you he was brilliant.)
Predictably, Damion left two extremely attractive blondes in the running. When McGuinness wondered why he'd gone for blondes when there were brunettes with their lights on he said he 'had no choice.' We were cringing. Toes like Quavers. What a PIG. He was then given the chance to narrow it down with a question, which was 'What would you take to a desert island?' The lovely Steph replied: 'I would have a really good answer for this if I liked the lad,' to a chorus of cheers from the onlookers and her fellow contestants. Paddy McGuinness walked to the back of the room, took off his suit jacket, and applauded her as if he was a member of the audience. We laughed out loud. Actually, we laughed so loudly our neighbours probably thought we were being attacked. Chelsea, now looking at him as if he had just whipped out his micropenis, responded with 'I would take milk. Because I love milk.' The audience wailed with laughter. We could hardly breathe. Damion had probably been expecting answers like 'I wouldn't even take any knickers because I'd be banging you all night long', but instead he got milk, and he got merked. And just when you thought it couldn't get any better...
Paddy always poses one final conundrum at the end of every Take Me Out experience. When thirty girls have been whittled down to two, he announces a funny fact about one of them, and invites the boy to guess which one it's about. This week, he explained that one of the girls 'is Miss Intercontinental England. A beauty queen. Is it going to be Steph -'
To which Damion remarked, 'Nah.'
That was it. We were hiding behind the cushions. The tension was so enormous that I nearly threw up my Sunday dinner. He cannot be allowed to do this, I thought, he should be banned from dating anyone. (For the record, even Jodie Marsh was embarrassed, tweeting that 'this twat on Take Me Out is not my ex'). Then the incredible happened. As he walked towards Steph, hand outstretched to turn her light off, the girl who stands next to her, Judi, reached over and slammed her hand down on the switch, disabling him from having any choice in the matter. We were creased. We couldn't breathe. TAKE THAT DAMION! Let the girl... see the power.
Sadly enough, this meant that poor Chelsea had to go on a date with dastardly Damion. As she said herself, 'All the girls got lovely dates tonight. I feel like I've taken one for the team.' Yes Chelsea. You have taken one for the team. But not just the team of 30 girls on Take Me Out; for the team that is Great Britain's female population. I hereby pledge to eat my hat if that guy ever gets another date on England's green and pleasant land. You've done us all a massive favour... and provided us with some of the best TV I've ever seen. Roll on next Saturday - I'm staying in.