Patrick Freyne: The honey or the money? Dating is so complicated these days

The hunks in Ready to Mingle clearly have delicate skin: they keep ripping their clothes off

What are your sexual preferences? Are you a Love Islander, a First Dater, a Married at First Sighter or a Too Hot to Handler? I myself am a traditionalist and go back to Blind Date for all of my moves. Still, I know that nowadays there are a lorra lorra dating shows on television and I can’t afford to be judgmental.

In Ready to Mingle (Monday to Friday, Virgin Media One) 12 male hunks shack up with a solitary female hunk and vie for her affections like common garden bees. It's nice to see environmentally conscious shows like this. I myself have started a wildflower meadow to attract dejected hunks to my garden, and it's so relaxing to see them out there, buzzing about, pollinating flowers, lifting weights ... It's possible I'm getting them mixed up with actual bees.

The queen hunk, Sophia, lives in her own sequestered boudoir, which comes with rose petals sprinkled all over the floor and the furniture, which I’d find awful because of my hay fever. Meanwhile the drones shack up together in one bedroom, like Irish siblings in the 1980s or Morecambe and Wise or, again, bees, which I imagine sleep in rows of little bee-sized beds.

The hunkiest of the drones will eventually be chosen by the queen as her mate, after which his abdomen will split and his penis will fall off. Though it's possible I'm getting hunks mixed up with bees

The villa does look very like that of Love Island, which must be why the producers have forced all of the hunks to wear trousers and jackets lest the viewers get confused. That said, clothes clearly chafe the delicate skin of these hunks, causing them to frequently rip the fabric from their bodies and slather their impossible Lovecraftian angles with baby oil. Indeed, footage of individual hunks dancing shirtlessly in a sexy manner recurs throughout the show as a motif. So effective is this that we’ll shortly be replacing all of our byline photographs in The Irish Times with such footage.


There is method to all of this madness. The hunkiest of the drones will eventually be chosen by the queen as her mate, after which his abdomen will split and his penis will fall off, though it’s possible I’m getting hunks mixed up with bees again. In fact, now that I’ve moved away from the Wikipedia entry on bee love, I see that the queen and her chosen hunk consort will actually win £50,000 to split between them.

But wait! There's a twist! Half of the hunks have a secret lover who is observing everyone's antics, much like Baby Jesus or Facebook, from another villa nearby. If the queen hunk chooses an already attached hunk, that hunk and his nefarious hunk wife will get the prize pot for themselves and use it to purchase a hive of their own, or, given post-pandemic inflation, a weekend in Killarney.

It's all very complicated, and I've no idea if all of these shenanigans were invented for this programme or if it's just how young people date nowadays. It's certainly far from what God intended: a row of three men in ill-fitting suits aiming double entendres at a woman secluded behind a cheap screen, while the cheeky Liverpudlian song warbler Cilla Black chuckles.

The hunks spend each episode wooing Sophia. They do things like bring her tea and ask how she slept – things that they seem to equate with grand romantic gestures. She, in turn, gazes at them suspiciously, largely because she’s been told that half of them are liars.

Then at the end of Tuesday’s episode there was a “double elimination”, which sounds like something horrible and medical. It actually means that Sophia is having two of the drones evicted, at which point we all learn if they have girlfriends or not. We learn that Lewis, a man who spent the whole show red in the face trying not to blurt out the words “I have a girlfriend!”, has a girlfriend. But what of Elliot, whose main quality is an ability to brew tea?

Animals with Camera can feel like a cunning plot to reduce staff costs at the BBC. 'We would like you to strap these cameras to some sharks, please'

"Elliot, were you in it for the money or the honey?" asks comedic host Katherine Ryan, with a tone of voice that suggests this is a normal thing that people say now. "I was in it for the honey," says Elliot sadly, revealing himself to be one of the bees of which we spoke earlier in this column or, possibly, a cartoon bear. I was wondering why he was wearing a too tight red T-shirt and no trousers.

Speaking of the beauty of nature, on Wednesday on BBC Two Gordon Buchanan has been strapping cameras to animals for a new series of a show with the unsurprising name Animals with Cameras. He and his chums strap these cameras to, among other things, big turtles in Cape Verde, some gannets off the coast of Ireland, and some recently abandoned baby seals in California. At times it feels like a cunning plot to reduce staff costs at the BBC ("We would like you to strap these cameras to some sharks, please"), but the cameras do work and we then watch experts analyse the footage. We learn that the sharks are going deeper into the coral reefs than expected and that the gannets are diving into the sea at points where they spot dolphins or whales and that baby seals are really, really cute. (I may have not been listening properly at this point.)

There is one key problem: animals are terrible camera operators. They don’t have opposable thumbs, and they pay no attention to framing or composition or where they sit in the history of modern cinema. In fact, if I was to ask the gannet who his favourite film-makers are, I bet he’d struggle to answer before eventually saying something like “Tom Hanks” or “Marvel” or “the guy who did Inception”. Stupid gannet.

So if this is a plot to replace unionised staff members with cheaper labour, it has failed, because I spend the programme wishing that I was watching the majestic camerawork Buchanan produces without the help of beasts. On the other hand, there are baby seals in this programme, and they are fat and fluffy, so it almost balances out. I’m just glad we humans are too clever to allow anyone to attach cameras and tracking devices to us.