Take Me Out: Golden Girls, Saturday 9th June, 8pm, ITV
You may or may not be familiar with the concept of Take Me Out. In a nutshell, it’s a show where a man tries to impress 30 women with his looks, charm and talent over three rounds of interaction. After the three rounds, any women who are still interested ‘leave their lights on’ on their console, and the man gets to select one of them, and they go off on a date to an island they refer to as ‘Fernando’ but which is actually Tenerife. In even more of a nutshell, everyone makes a moron of themselves, before the man chooses the best-looking woman.
It is frequently the kind of television you have to watch through your fingers. People have been known to cringe so hard during Take Me Out that they have actually turned inside out. It is to the concept of dignity what crisps are to haute cuisine. And yet… well, sometimes we all just want a bag of crisps, right? So it is with this undemanding guilty pleasure. Much of this is down to the hosting of Paddy McGuinness, who has interacted with contestants and delivered his woeful puns and lame catchphrases with admirable gusto for the past eight years.
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So why preview the show after eight years? Because tonight is something special. Tonight, Take Me Out has given the boot to all the 20-somethings with their tattoos and deck-shoes-with-no-socks and whitened teeth, and has given the stage to some venerable senior citizens in their quest for love. Or, as McGuinness puts it succinctly “It’s grab-a-granny night!” It doesn’t get much better. “They’re 30 shades of gorgeous grey,” he shouts as the women take to the stage. “Let’s give their love lives a stairlift!”
First off, he chats to a few of the women. There’s Merle, who in a triumph of hope over experience is on the hunt for her sixth husband. You can almost imagine her at home, laughing to herself and muttering “I’m coming for you, Zsa Zsa!” Then there’s Lesley, who loves nothing more than going clubbing in Ibiza, something which I felt too old to do at 20 (mind you, I was born with a pipe and slippers). There’s Maggie, who used to dance on Top of the Pops in the 80s, runs a performing arts school, and can still do the splits. And there’s Valetta, who’s not been on a date in decades. Sounds like my 20s.
First up in front of the ladies is George. He’s a diminutive, bald man, but something of a pocket dynamo – he’s absolutely full of beans, teaches a Zumba class, has a mean dance step but an unfortunate habit of referring to dancing as having ‘a wiggle and a giggle’.
Once George has successfully claimed his next partner for wiggling and giggling, it’s on to part two, and the quite remarkable creature that is Lawrence. With lustrous, long silver hair, a beard, an open shirt and a scarf, he looks like a cross between Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen’s dad and a lion. “He reminds me of Jesus,” comments one of the women. If Jesus had lived until his 60s and gone on a primetime Saturday night ITV dating show as a Barry Gibb tribute act.
Lawrence is an artist. Of course. “I love to paint beautiful women,” he coos. He’s also studied tantra. And he’s something of the philosopher. “I’ve learned that my sensitivity is my strength. It’s quite powerful.” The image of a shaman-mystic is only slightly dented by the knowledge that he’s the night manager of a hotel in Ibiza.
After Lawrence, poor old Bill from Liverpool seems like slightly pedestrian fare. He’s a cheerful, giggly fellow, a former police officer who now drives an HGV part-time, and enjoys scuba diving. I don’t think he’s practised tantra. There’s just time at the end to watch footage of how all the dates went, then it’s straight upstairs for a shower and a scrub with carbolic soap, before it’s back on the sofa for an arts programme or some current affairs. Shhh. No-one ever need know.
The World Cup, BBC One and ITV, Thursday 14th June, 2:30pm until for a month, basically non-stop
It’s that quadrennial moment adored by football fans, beer manufacturers, crisp purveyors, publicans, shops selling HD-ready TVs, flag-merchants, replica-kit-makers, and people who like attaching St George Crosses to their car aerials. Oh, and divorce lawyers. Because nothing harms a relationship more than when one of the parties is obsessively trying to work out why the Iranians aren’t playing a 3-5-2 system with overlapping fullbacks, while the other just wants to watch Love Island. In many households, the World Cup is merely a month-long battle for custody of the TV remote. Look at Henry VIII. It’s no coincidence that his divorces from Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves happened in World Cup years, and he became so enraged by Anne Boleyn’s refusal to watch Uruguay v Germany in the Confederations Cup of 1536 that he had her permanently substituted.
Anyway, here we are again, when half of the nation rolls its eyes in despair and stomps off to watch Midsomer Murders reruns on the small TV in the kitchen, while the other half starts plotting wall charts and bulk-buying frozen pizza and wondering why on earth they’ve arranged to go out for dinner on the night of the first quarter final.
It is the ultimate display of hope over expectation and of not learning from experience. Once again I find myself in the latter camp, as giddy as a schoolboy in the run up to this, my 12th World Cup. I won’t attempt to watch every minute of every game, as I attempted in 1994 (to be fair, a very, very poor choice of tournament to watch all of). Nor will I spend almost every night for a month in the pub (again 1994, though in my defence, I had just finished my finals at University). But I’ll be watching as much of it as work, parental responsibility, and spousal-induced-fear allow.
So what to say about the TV coverage? As ever, the tournament is split between ITV and the BBC. Both will have flashy studios overlooking Red Square. The BBC will show 33 live games, including England’s first two matches, against Tunisia (on June 18th) and Panama (June 24th). ITV will have 32 live matches, including England’s last group game, against Belgium, on 28th June.
The BBC’s coverage will be fronted by the excellent Gary Lineker, who seems to become more adept an anchor with every year that passes. He will be fronted by the usual faces, plus some new signings in the form of ladies’ international Alex Scott, and former World Cup stars Jurgen Klinsmann, Didier Drogba and Pablo Zabaleta. Phil Neville will also line up for the BBC, while his brother Gary will be on ITV. That will present a thorny dilemma for dad Neville, if both his sons are pundits for the final. And no, I did not make up the fact that their dad is called Neville Neville.
ITV have the estimable Mark Pougatch at the helm, with your bog-standard Dixons, Keanes, Wrights etc, plus Patrice Evra, Henrik Larsson, Slaven Bilic and Alex Scott’s erstwhile teammate Eni Aluko. And it’s on ITV that the tournament begins, with the opening ceremony at 2:30pm on Thursday, which will almost certainly feature some giant Russian dolls, a hideous tournament mascot and some loud bangs. Then the real excitement gets underway at 4pm, when the tournament kicks off with… (drumroll, please)… Russia v Saudi Arabia.
Still, things really heat up on Friday, with Egypt v Uruguay at 1pm, when Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Diego Godin will line up against the utterly magical Mo Salah, should the Egyptian recover from his shoulder injury in time. Then there’s Morocco v Iran at 4pm, which may be one for the truly dedicated fan, before the Iberian derby between Spain and Portugal at 7pm. With Cristiano Ronaldo coming up against Sergio Ramos, it’s difficult to know who to want to lose more!
And what of the tournament as a whole? For me, there are six potential winners, split into three groups. Argentina and Brazil are the South American nations with absurd attacking riches and suspect defences. Then there are the Francophile nations of France and Belgium, who have astonishingly good players that seem to fail to amount to the sum of their parts. Finally, there are the giants of the last 10 years of world football, Germany and Spain, both of whom boast an embarrassment of riches and some big tournament experience.
As for England? I gave up predicting what they’d do a long time ago. It’s my 12th World Cup, remember?
The best… and the rest
Saturday 9th June
Germaine Bloody Greer, 9pm, BBC Two: What’s it like to be Germaine Greer? I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves that question at least twice a week for the last 40 years, right? Well, now this documentary crew has spent time with the woman herself, so that we can find out at last.
Sunday 10th June
Soccer Aid for Unicef 2018, 6:30pm, ITV: ITV provides an antidote to the forthcoming relentless diet of football with a glamorous showbiz extravaganza featuring the likes of Usain Bolt, Robbie Williams, Mo Farah, Gordon Ramsey, Olly Murs and Brendan Cole all… uum… playing football against each other. It’s all in a good cause mind…
Countryfile Royal Special: Sandringham, 7pm, BBC One: The third and last of the specials looking at HRH’s rural boltholes, this one features the spot of Norfolk real estate where the Windsors gather for Christmas.
Poldark 1/8, 9pm, BBC One: Aiden Turner’s fabulous abdominal muscles return for the third series of this Cornish period drama also starring the rest of Aiden Turner, and Eleanor Tomlinson.
Monday 11th June
Grenfell, 8:30pm, BBC One: A year since the fateful fire, this 90-minute documentary hears the survivors tell their shattering stories, and the bereaved share their desperate recollections. Filmed over a year (filming began the day after the fire) this promises to be the definitive account of an event whose implications will continue to be felt for years to come.
Long Lost Family: What Happened Next, 1/3, 9pm, ITV: Hankies at the ready, people, as Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell revisit some of the series most compelling stories to find out what happened after the cameras stopped rolling (um, before they started again…)
Flowers, 10pm, Channel 4: beginning tonight with a double bill, and then showing every night this week, this is series 2 of Will Sharpe’s extraordinary, weird, unique and deeply moving sitcom. It’s not to everyone’s tastes, dealing as it does with mental illness, but you will never have seen the like before.
Tuesday 12th June
Flights From Hell: Caught on Camera 1/3, 9pm, ITV: Similar to Channel 4’s recent programmes, Cruises from Hell: Caught on Camera, and Trains from Hell: Caught on Camera, only slightly higher up in the air.
Wednesday 13th June
The Fast Fix: Diabetes 1/2, 9pm, ITV: People with Type 2 Diabetes have lives dominated (and often shortened) by this condition… but can they reverse it with a radical liquid diet? Part 2 is tomorrow night.
How to Start an Airline, 10:30pm, Channel 4: Following the efforts of self-made businessman Kazi Shafiqur Rahman as he attempts to launch his own airline. Oddly enough, it’s not wildly straightforward.
Thursday 14th June
The Trouble with Women with Anne Robinson, 9pm, BBC One: Robinson examines why women haven’t achieved more equality, following on from the revolution that her generation began, and asks whether women today are too fragile. That’ll go down well, then…
Friday 15th June
Building Britain’s Canals 1/3, 8pm, Channel 5: Historian Dan Jones looks at the history of Britain’s man-made waterways, from their industrial heyday to their reinvention as a leisure paradise. Tonight, The Grand Union canal, at 152 miles the longest in the UK.