The crisis in heterosexuality is well under way now. Young straight people have apparently completely forgotten how to do sex. Consequently their parents’ generation, now television producers, are encouraging them to breed with the help of camera crews and easily franchisable dating formats.
Once upon a time, when a mammy and a daddy loved each other very much, they had a lorra lorra laughs with the help of Cilla Black or, if they were Irish, they married an elderly friend of their father's, or if they were pandas they were coaxed into lovemaking by a zoo keeper in a panda outfit (this will probably soon be a romance telly format).
Nowadays, when a mammy and a daddy love each other very much, they go to an island filled with hunks and sit around a pool in their pants until love strikes (Love Island).
Or they go into a “pod” and speak to a disembodied voice behind a wall who they must propose marriage to in order to see their human form (Love is Blind).
Or, this week, the “mammy” must invite five prospective “daddies” to live with her and her camera crew in her three-bedroom semi-detached house and she chooses the best one while jaunty pizzicato strings play (Five Guys a Week, Tuesday, Channel 4).
To purloin a phrase from LGBT Twitter: straight people are not okay.
The female point at the middle of the aforementioned pentagram of love is Amy, a “thirty-something”. She says this phrase in a manner that makes me think that she genuinely doesn’t know exactly what age she is. Five men then move in with her and sleep all tucked up together much like the seven dwarves or the Smurfs (Amy has her own room). Amy then endeavours to get to know them and to gradually whittle the number of guys down from five to a more traditional number (that’s “one” but who knows these days?).
Amy is, understandably, beside herself with joy at this situation. Her house is now filled with hunks falling over themselves trying to impress her, like bees trying to pollinate a bird (sex education wasn’t great for my generation either, to be honest).
Like the Smurfs (or Marxists) the guys are all defined by their labour. There's Country Singer Guy, Scott, Surfer Guy, Trystan, Stuntman Guy, Michael and Banker Guy, Christian. And then there's Glen, who doesn't really have a "thing", thus making him, I suppose, one of the generic "Smurfs without portfolio". That's not to count him out. A Smurf-without-portfolio is liable to survive the vagaries of an ever-changing employment market and Glen proves surprisingly resilient, despite his main differentiator being that he is capable of cooking breakfast.
My favourite "guy" at the outset is Christian, who is a wide boy in both the psychological and literal sense. He boasts about being the type of person who decides on a whim to take his beloved to France for breakfast. "Weather permitting," he adds and I love that "weather permitting". I'm at an age where this makes me like Banker Guy. I imagine him checking Aertel, patting Amy's hand and saying, "On reflection, my sweet, let's just have a nice breakfast here at home."
Trystan, the surfer dude, tells us he wants a lover who would not balk at travelling to the top of a volcano to stare at the stars. He doesn’t add “weather permitting” which is a black mark in my book (my book is called Sensible Love Strategies for Worrywarts and it’s out in May). Overall he is a vague and distant presence. I suspect his true love is the sea. So Trystan, ironically, does not end up tryst-in’ with Amy and is quickly dispatched back to the ocean from whence he came, like an ethically-fished salmon.
The next one to go is Mike the stuntman. Mike regales us all with tales of how during the production of Star Wars, the Stormtroopers often had to wee in their costumes. He’s basically a poet. The final straw for him is a night out at a disco where Scott, the country singer, sidles up close to Amy and begins snogging her passionately. The other “guys” respond to this by standing nearby staring. That’s it for Mike. Here he is, approaching middle-age, sharing a room with a bunch of hunks and now engaged in hunk-based sexual voyeurism.
“This isn’t for me,” he says the next day before Amy even has a chance to evict anyone new. This is Mike’s greatest stunt and soon he’s off home to wee in as many Stormtrooper costumes as his heart desires.
After the disco, Scott can’t believe his luck. He clutches Amy possessively as Christian glowers (Christian is very intense; I imagine he just frightens money into his bank account). Scott barely notices and soon he’s playing guitar. Nobody asks him to. But you don’t need to ask a young man with an acoustic guitar to play it. It just happens. It’s a version of Chekhov’s gun: you see it in the first act and you think, ‘before long someone is going to use that to do something horrible.’
The next day Amy takes Glen (still here), Banker and Guitar-twanker to meet her inappropriate mother who asks them how good they are at sex. “I’ve had no complaints,” says the banker, though having attempted to complain to a bank in the past, I suspect that 45 minutes of muzak and menu options might have just put them off.
Then she grills Scott on his prospects which, given that he’s a British country singer, aren’t the best. This sends him into a spiral of self-doubt and soon he’s anxiously bending Amy’s ear. Smooth. Now, if I know anything after 12 years of marriage, it’s that women love needy men.
Downstairs Christian confides in Glen. “I see [Scott] as my main competition, obviously,” he says and Glen doesn’t take offence. He’s as surprised as anyone that he’s survived this long.
Soon Amy is snogging Christian and Scott and his cursed guitar are banished from the house. Glen is still here, probably watching Amy and Christian snogging. He has seen off a surfer dude, a stuntman and a professional singer. He is the coronavirus of suitors. Do not underestimate him.
Then Amy, Christian and Glen have a romantic meal at a table covered in rose petals. Part of me figures they should just, to quote David Crosby, "go on as three" but in the end Amy chooses Christian because those are the rules. There can be only one.
Glen trundles out the front door (he’s probably still standing in the garden as I type), then Christian and Amy snog, alone at last, just them and their camera crew. What happens next? I’ve been anticipating this talk for some time, readers. Sometimes when a mammy and a daddy and their camera crew love each other very much…