So last week saw the launch of TLC's new dating series, 'Undressed'. Not just a dating show where two people get their kit off in a bedroom - though it does that too - but a social experiment, where two strangers meet for the first time and are initially instructed, via a screen prompt, to undress each other. Followed by a number of further screen prompts, which act as ice-breakers, to fast track that 'do we fancy each other or not?' elusive mystery of mysteries, that is familiarly known as chemistry.
Now, most of us love a dating show. What could be more fun than the cringe fest of two people trying to be on their best behaviour while trying to impress someone else, with a sizeable TV audience watching their every move?
All the way from Blind Date through to First Dates, we have been there watching through our fingers at the awkward moments as well as feeling relieved that it's not us up there on the screen. The truth is that for most singletons, any first date is packed full of tension. What will he/she look like? Where to go? Will I fancy them? Will they fancy me? What to wear? What to talk about? What not to talk about? What will happen at the end of the date?
The premise of 'Undressed' is that all that is taken care for you. Each match is carefully selected for you, you're in a room that contains little other than a king-sized bed dressed in crisp white sheets and a huge flat screen facing you and whatever clothes you do decide to wear are pretty swiftly removed by the stranger you have just been introduced to.
Additionally, far from being stuck for something to talk abut with your date, a series of screen prompts - anything from 'hug your partner for 60 seconds' to 'what do you like about your partner?' are emblazoned in front of you, along with photos of you both from the past and challenging try-out yoga positions, all of which are designed to cut to the intimacy chase as fast as possible.
This has two main functions. Firstly, undressing anybody at any stage can be awkward to say the least, but to do it to a complete stranger cuts straight through 'formality' and puts you on the most level of playing fields. Secondly, once you are both in a state of undress, vulnerability is exposed (yes, one of those words it's hard to avoid) and there is no place to hide. In this state of vulnerability - and it's the gentlest sense of the word - the direct and often taboo first-date questions, tend to elicit candid and honest responses.
The matched couples are of a variety of dating experience, age, sexual orientation and body size. There is no alcohol to hide behind, no mobile phones that just 'happen' to get called and no loos to disappear into redo your make up/report back to your friends.
When we go on a first date, most of us know pretty soon whether it's a definite 'no'. In which case no second date obviously. Just as most of us recognise a genuine 'phwoar' moment. But somewhere in between, especially while we're struggling to present ourselves in the best possible way, avoid dodgy subjects and get to know someone else is a flurry of just not being sure. By stripping away clothes, pretence and inhibitions 'Undressed' aims to fast track that process, to a definite 'yes, I do fancy him/her' or 'no I definitely don't' in just 30 minutes. And do you know, not only does it work well, the process of watching this bold and daring fast track to intimacy is touching, funny and endearing.
Jo Hemmings is a Behavioural Psychologist and Dating Coach. She is the Consultant Psychologist on 'Undressed' which broadcasts Fridays at 10pm on TLC.
Twitter: @TVPsychologist #UndressedTLC