Patrick Freyne: This TV school is a makey-up fantasy realm, like Hobbiton, Narnia or Dalkey

TV: In Lovestruck High, a bunch of fully grown Britons attend classes and look for love

In Ireland, when grown adults hang about a secondary school in order to “find love” it’s seen as a bit of a red flag. In Lovestruck High (Amazon), however, the programme-makers have taken a bunch of fully-grown Britons, dressed them like American high school students and made them attend classes. At first I thought it might be a documentary about one of those experimental Tory charter schools, maybe the one run by Toby Young, except that it seems like a half-decent school.

But they’re not actually there to further their education. And nor are they there in the way rich businessmen pay money to dress like adult babies. I’ll let the school principal, a lady with a reassuringly tight ponytail and big glasses, explain: “Your ultimate assignment is to find your perfect partner to take to prom.” I suspect she doesn’t actually have a masters in education.

The name of the school should have been another red flag. Indeed, if I was choosing a local school for my terrible nephews and the choices were between Lovestruck High, Monkey Shenanigans Tech and A Good Stable Job for the Future Comprehensive, I know which one I’d pick (it’s Monkey Shenanigans Tech).

In fairness, the telly version of high school is more of a makey-up fantasy realm like Hobbiton or Narnia or Dalkey than a real place. And almost all reality television can be summed up by the phrase: “the Stanford Prison Experiment, but sexy”. The genre has never really featured many actual teenagers, preferring to fill out cast lists with elderly geezers who have regret etched on their weathered faces.

Shows such as Beverly Hills 90210 featured Luke Perry, who had the lined face of a man fondly recalling rationing, flatcaps and snuff. Gossip Girl started out as an American remake of Last of the Summer Wine. Most people didn’t even realise Matlock was about a teenager. Tom Cruise, whose film Far and Away about 19th-century emigration was filmed in the 19th century, could still feasibly play a high schooler. And the cast of Euphoria is played by the ghosts of long-dead sailors lost at sea.

So it’s not strange that an American high school is the sort of place British adults think it’s possible to attend. You also have to bear in mind what kind of British adults we’re talking about here. Everyone on this programme is descended from the ancient peoples who appeared on Blind Date in the 1980s. They are, to a man and woman, cheeky chappies and game gals.

“I’m great at spreadsheets but I’m even better in the bedsheets,” says a man named Alex, who seems like a lorra lorra fun.

“I’m here to rule the school and to find my man,” says Megan, who has apparently mislaid a man.

“They call me Sin but I’m a blessing in disguise,” says Sin, before flexing a bicep on which is tattooed the word “blessing”.

These are also, in an amazing coincidence, things I said in my first Irish Times interview.

My favourite contestant so far is Huss, who is a bad boy in the sense that he is bad at being a human boy. Here he is trying to chat up two girls at once: “Both of you are my type. Both of you are stunning. Your eyes are amazing. Both of you have the same eyes to be honest with you.” They do not have the same eyes for that would be a grotesque affront to God. No, they each have their own individual pair of eyes but this goes unnoticed by Huss. Later, Huss attempts to make casual conversation with: “I love sex, by the way,” he says, as though this is a obscure niche activity only appreciated by a sensitive few. Later again we overhear Huss ask, without much context, “Is steak vegetarian?” It’s possible that Huss is too pure for this world.

There are other contestants also worthy of note. Muscly Geoff makes a beeline for Jessie who he feels he has “vibed” with. But Jessie does not recognise the alleged “vibing”, for she is a lesbian and tells Geoff so. Poor Geoff. “This is awks,” says Geoff. “Awks” being the opposite of “vibes.”

Jessie does “vibe” with Sin, whose gaydar is glitchy and does a dance of joy when she finds out Jessie is gay. Max and Yasmine make conversation in the library. Max seems actively uncomfortable in this environment, as though fearful he might be made to learn something. Yasmine, however, is moved to poetry. “We get really giddy and moist around each other; it’s disgusting,” she says to the camera, thus actively making it disgusting.

Are these reflective bits to camera something members of Generation Z do as an instinct now? I imagine there’s probably a disorder that involves babbling nonsensically to an invisible audience. “There is,” says you. “It’s called being a ‘columnist’.”

Occasionally I notice there are other “students” in the corridors. These are either “extras” or Amazon has actually found an underfunded American school to host its television experiment. That feels about right for this stage in western decline.

Our plucky Brits go to class, where a teacher says, “My name is Ms Kelly and it’s my role to support every one of you as you bloom and blossom into the beautiful flowers that you all know you can be”. I’m not sure if she’s seeing what we’re seeing, but if these people bloom and blossom any further, they won’t fit in the room. She makes them perform a “trust” exercise in which they fall backwards into the arms of their blooming and blossoming classmates.

Here’s Huss discussing the concept of “trust”: “If I trust you, you can be around a hundred guys,” he says, before swiftly reconsidering his trust maths. “Maybe not a hundred guys, maybe around three/four guys. That’s all.” Someday the sayings of Huss will be compiled into books like those of Marcus Aurelius and I will buy them and give them as presents to everyone at Christmas.

They are split into a group of cheerleaders and a group of baseball playing sportsfolk. “Megan is looking fantastic with legs flying everywhere,” says Alex, even though Megan has just two legs and they are limited to leg-shaped locations adjoining her body. The thought of Megan with a sprawl of omni-locational limbs is a bit more Lovecraft High than Lovestruck High, but each to their own.

The first episode of Lovestruck High ends with a school dance at which Huss is the only partnerless attendee and finds himself “working the punchbowl”. This is not a euphemism, he’s literally ladling punch from a bowl. However, I imagine he’s also been metaphorically “working the punchbowl”.

Elsewhere there is trouble in ersatz high-school paradise. Megan tells her date Alex that she is not feeling a “spark”. Alex takes it like a champ, possibly consoling himself with the thought that somewhere there is a perfect girl covered in legs. He tries it on with KT, whose name is just initials like a bank or a local character in a small Irish town.

Then the principal takes to the stage and announces that not all of the contestants will make it all the way to prom. Some will be expelled. There are gasps. Mouths open in shock. But, if they don’t graduate from Lovestruck High, how will they ever go to Sex Romp University? I guess we’ll just have to watch more to see.

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