TV UK, 25 July

Would Like to Meet advises you not to swear on a date, because you wouldn't swear at a job interview and 'technically' this is the same thing.

Dolan Cummings

Topics Politics

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In the early 1990s Canadian sketch show The Kids in the Hall, there was a great recurring sketch in which a middle-aged man in golfing clothes swaggered down the street nodding and winking at passers-by, with a swing soundtrack announcing ‘The Best Lookin’ Man in the World’.

This seems to be the kind of effect sought by Would Like to Meet (BBC2, Wednesdays at 9pm). Hapless men and women who can’t get dates (Dates? Do people really talk like that?) are subjected to an onslaught of advice from self-appointed experts in fashion, body language and chatting up, in an effort to transform them into skilled and confident daters.

Last week, 34-year-old Jo was urged to overcome her self-esteem issues and turn her life around. This meant dressing like Sarah Jessica Parker from Sex and the City, taking hip-hop dancing lessons and learning to shut up and let the man do the talking. Liberating, huh? By following reams of such inane advice she finally succeeded in getting a date.

To find out what happened after that you can check the website (1), which is chocablock with further inanity, mainly in the form of multiple-choice quizzes with absurdly prescriptive ‘correct’ answers. My favourite tidbit is that you shouldn’t swear on a date because you wouldn’t swear at a job interview and ‘technically’ this is the same thing.

Dating is much more complicated in prison, as is evident in Oz (Channel 4, Tuesdays at 11.05pm). Beecher is still suffering from low self-esteem following his painful break-up with Keller, and has been dating indiscriminately. Meanwhile O’Reily has got himself into a destructive codependent relationship with one of the guards, a woman who certainly knows how to keep her man. ‘This relationship isn’t over until I say so. Got it, punk?’

The claustrophobic relationships in Oz (and not just sexual ones, though there is more sex and violence in the opening titles than in a whole series of Bad Girls on ITV) are the clearest indication of the programme’s general theme, the struggle to remain human in circumstances so irretrievably out of one’s control. As prison topdog Adebisi put it shortly before his death last week, whatever privileges and even power the inmates accumulate, ‘We’re still in Oz’.

From one relationship laboratory to another, and studiously avoiding Big Brother, a word on Scrubs (Channel 4, Thursdays at 11.05pm). This mere sitcom finds all life in a US hospital, and combines sentimentality with cynicism in the service of a oddly humanistic humour. The central relationship is between JD and Elliot, both of whom are refreshingly beyond help when it comes to relationship skills, and are all the more likeable and worthy of respect for that.

As for the sublimely twisted Dr Cox, given the chance he would effortlessly turn the tables and shatter the self esteem of the Would Like to Meet experts. A sitcom caricature he may be, but it would be a triumph for real human beings everywhere.

Dolan Cummings is publications editor at the Institute of Ideas, and editor of Culture Wars. He is also the editor of Reality TV: How Real Is Real?, Hodder Murray, 2002 (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).

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(1) See Would Like to Meet… in BBC health (Health? Don’t ask me.)

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Topics Politics


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