Blind Date: Al Porter almost saves TV3’s ramshackle show
Review: Ireland’s version is like the queue for Coppers: shouty, frantic, embarrassing
It’s funny how the iconic Blind Date theme tune also manages to sound a bit like the Jaws theme. Both are a warning siren that something terrifying is about to happen. Compared to our positively genteel version of First Dates, Irish Blind Date feels like the business end of the queue for Coppers at 2am. It’s shouty, it’s frantic, and it’s embarrassing.
Unlike our flashy English counterparts we’re still not adept at appearing on telly and when a camera is pointed at a contestant they either stare right down the lens, dissolve into a fit of giggles like a shy child or turn their head to avoid it completely. Our collective embarrassment is oddly endearing but, as with other Irish shows of this kind, because we tend to give the game away with our unpolished behaviour it can make our attempts look amateurish.
There is a ramshackle element to the entire show from the set, which is filled with flaming light bulbs and crushed chrome features, to the half-hysterical audience laughter, which gives the constant nagging notion that we’re on a knife-edge. Wobbly scenery could topple over, as could the bar stools; the contestants could kick down the screen; everyone could burst into tears. It’s like a game-show on a cruise ship or in a David Lynch nightmare sequence; it has that queasy,uncomfortable surreal feeling that something is not quite right.
The boys are your standard “headers”, made up of Gary, a pipe fitter (oo-er!) from Kilkenny with a distractingly sparkly beard who enjoys wearing a full body-stocking of a night out. Then there’s Keith from Kildare who wants “an all round normal girl who’s random”, and is the breakout star of the night due to the fact that he’s the lead singer in a Prodigy tribute act. He gives the audience a flavour of his own Keith Flint impression by walking up and down the stage shouting part of the chorus of Breathe like the bloke you try to avoid standing near when waiting for the Nitelink.
David from Dublin is a man made up of hair gel and nervous laughter who looks like he’s doing this for a bet and regretting it by the minute. There is an awkward air to the proceedings from the off, like the start of a stag or a hen night when everyone is shuffling around saying nonsensical phrases out loud to “get the party started” before necking back five West Coast Coolers.
Thankfully Al Porter does his best to corral the contestants into some order. He adapts to the Cilla role of the over-inquisitive aunt with such ease it’s as if he’s been waiting to do this forever. Even with the terrible double entendres and stinky cheesy one-liners he still manages to exhibit a warm, cheeky charm that makes the audience feel like we’re in this bizarre escapade together.
It’s Dionne from Cork in her dusky pink Deb’s dress that gets to do the initial picking. Thanks to cringeworthy answers about 50 Shades of Grey, “Willy Wonker” and welding being a “real man’s job”, she ends up plumping for Dave from Dublin, which means fake Keith from the Prodigy is still up for grabs ladies. They’re sent on a date to Bunratty Castle because nothing says romance more than Ireland’s number one medieval family holiday destination.
They seem to have gotten the raw end of the deal as Al introduces Hayley and David, a couple who we’ve never seen before but are being used as filler. Al has supposedly matched them up earlier on and sent them off to Lisbon. This section of the show is like watching a selection of Instagram videos of random people. Frankly, they should have just let Keith sing a whole Prodigy medley if they needed more material.
Then it’s on with the girls, who include Niamh from Leixlip, who is not being too picky about what she wants in a man. When Al concludes that “anyone will do her”, she nods vigorously in agreement. Then there’s Jennifer from Meath, a former Miss Navan, which gives Porter the opportunity to joke about entering Mr Ireland while winking into the camera, making sure that the show needs its post-watershed slot.
Finally, there is Ciara from Blanchardstown, hidden by her own screen of hair. She says she wants “a nutjob”: sadly there is only Gary from Tallaght, a giant prawn of a man dressed in an ill-fitting ex-boybander uniform of distressed trousers and a beige poloneck.
Gary is a gym fanatic and within seconds he lifts Al up, and it’s a bit like in A Clockwork Orange when David Prowse carries the tiny old academic around like a baby. Sadly, Porter doesn’t continue the show in Gary’s arms and instead we’re treated to some questions about what way the girls would eat him if he was a Creme Egg. Once Jennifer happens to mention she’s done a few beauty pageants it’s game over for the other girls and the body-perfect twosome get sent off to Barcelona.
TV3 are hoping audiences will fall head over heels for Blind Date. It’s not going to be the love affair of the century, it possibly won’t even be a fumble down the back of the bus: although things may heat up when we see the returning couples. It probably has done the job tonight though for couples across the land clinging to each other on the couch for dear life, thankful that they don’t have to get back into the dangerous dating waters.