Looking back now, the 90s was perhaps humanity’s greatest period in history.
Sandwiched between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the War on Terror, it was a time of innocence. We were emerging from the bleak years of Thatcher; Brit Pop, Girl Power and New Labour promised a bright future as we approached the new millennium.
So in the age of Trump, Brexit, ISIS and other assorted awfulness, who can blame us all for wanting to pretend it’s that joyous decade once again?
In lieu of a working time machine, popular culture is manufacturing this shift in the spacetime continuum by bringing the past to us. The Crystal Maze has been resurrected by Channel 4 just months after doing the same with TFI Friday, with Blind Date the latest relic to be dusted off and thrust in front of the viewing public’s collective blank expression.
If we take a moment to consider the current state of TV dating, the new Blind Date should be a welcome relief from the eternal void we all thought the bottom of the barrel was protecting us from. The misogynistic cattle parade of Take Me Out was but an aperitif ahead of the likes of Love Island – a chilling insight into the Instagram-fuelled dystopia we’re all clearly heading towards – and Naked Attraction, a show in which contestants literally pick their matches based on the size of their labias.
‘Hey sir, whaddya say? This specimen’s got real strong thighs, perfect for working the field ‘til sundown.’
‘True, but that minge looks like a poorly carved Christmas ham.’
You thought you didn’t need a personality to succeed dating on TV in 2017? You barely need a functioning face.
Originally fronted by Cilla Black, Blind Date pulled in almost 20 million viewers at its peak, and Channel 5 have kept faithfully to the original format, presumably in a bid to pick up where it left off in 2003.
So why is it that this reboot has us longing for 9/11 all over again?
It wasn’t that the original was good – it was mindless trash, obviously – but it was of its time, and there was nothing else quite like it. Modern TV dating hasn’t set the bar higher, quite the opposite, but it feels like we’ve just seen too much. It’s like watching the Hammer Horror movies and expecting to feel scared, or rewatching Jim’ll Fix It and expecting not to feel nauseous.
We’re two weeks into the show’s return and both of the opening episodes have been spectacularly, almost impressively, dull. As already mentioned, the format is identical to its previous incarnation, with one guy or girl picking from three guys or girls, and then vice versa, with catch-ups on the dates from last week in between. This led to an awkward gap to fill in episode one, but the producers got around this problem by showing us the dates of two random couples they had matched off-screen – presumably failed auditionees. Unsurprisingly, watching two people who you had no emotional investment in walking around European cities and not getting on doesn’t really work.
To be honest, you’re hard pressed to feel any attachment to any of them. There’s very little time to get to know the contestants, while their pre-prepared answers to the three vacuous questions – invariably built around a bad pun – are so devoid of wit and intelligence that you wouldn’t want to anyway.
Paul O’Grady is a likeable screen presence and does an okay job of a pretty thankless task, but the show’s airtime (7pm, Saturday evenings) means there is no place for anything more risque that O’Grady might have been able to offer. The fact that it is bland was perhaps to be expected, but not even being able to call it bland family fun is a serious failing.
Despite all of its flaws it is at least not jarringly offensive, but then Blind Date never was. In 2017, perhaps that’s a part of the problem.