Carolyn Ashton and Ryan Elliot (original hosts)
Hewland International for ITV, 1 May 1999 to 21 December 2002
Let's be honest, dating shows are awful, aren't they? What's more this is a late night dating show, all the fun of seeing two people not hit it off but at only a fraction of the cost of, say, Streetmate (which was in fact made on a budget of approximately £5.99).
OK then, basic idea: in each half of the show you're shown eight clips of eight potential boys and girls you could be going out with. Each one makes a kind of instant video chat up line for the camera. Unfortunately, a large number of these are completely identical. To wit: "Hi, my name's Steve. I like going out clubbing... er... having a laff with me mates... soooo... if you wanna go out wiv me, give us a call!" Such is the youth of Britain lacking in imagination.
Aaaanyway, each one of these potential dates has a phone number. The viewing audience vote for their favourite and leave a short message and the least sad-loserish (i.e. the one who gets the most votes) gets to go out on a date. These dates usually revolve around something ever-so-slightly naughty, such as going to a massage parlour. How exciting!
Even more exciting is the potential humiliation and personal heartbreak of the people who didn't quite make it. Let's give it up then for the one-and-only top five rundown that's given out so the three worst can get away with obscurity and don't get a mention. However, the other four do get the embarrassment of being marked out on national television, to an audience of hundreds, that they couldn't get a girl/boyfriend. Ahhhh. And if you think that's a bit harsh then you'd be right but the voiceover given is basically saying the same thing...
So after hearing several of the messages, a few of the people who phoned up are invited to make a very short film of themselves in the back of a van. Don't worry, that's not as dodgy as it sounds... our datee will look at these videos with one of the two hosts and after assessing each candidate on several criteria (i.e. which one looked the fittest) the two would meet up and go on a date together where they would live happily ever after. Or not. In fact usually not but we can blame that on the shallowness of the selection criteria, can't we readers? Yes, in fact, we can.
Throw in a sofa, a blue-screen style background and some random vox pops on other people's sex lives and you have a show that's... actually not nearly as bad as it could have been. Actually, the first series was absolutely dire but thankfully they gave it a complete overhaul for the second run and in a cheeky sort of way it just about manages to pull it off.
The concept is quite clever because it's going for the same audience who (supposedly) use those 60p a minute phone chat lines. You know the ones, "Call the Lust Line NOW on 0909 FIFTY FIFTY FIFTY, that's 0909 FIFTY FIFTY FIFTY" with those awful hardcore dance 'choons' and even quite possibly 'flavas' in the background. It's also handily positioned just before That Prezzie Show which is always fun to watch after an afternoon down the pub.
"Why not Dial a Date?" ask the presenters at the end. Now why not just watch the Adult channels? Not that, um, we'd know anything about that sort of thing of course. No sir.