I was told about this show by my friend Sarah who was working on it briefly and needed to round-up single people to be on it. This is rather tragic, but I said yes to this – as did my friends Danielle and Nicola. The premise behind the show is that the applicants fill out an in-depth form about what they want from a love interest and the production team and their “specialists” use some sort of magical procedure to match you with your ideal partner. Once this was done, we were invited to an event where we would apparently meet our “perfect match”. We are then, apparently, kept track of for the coming year, to see how things pan out. How exciting, we thought.
We were naïve.
Cut to the day of this event. I drove myself, Danielle and Nicola to the location, which turned out to be some sort of massive bunker-like conference centre in the middle of the secluded countryside somewhere. It positively screamed “romance”. We parked up and filed into the building, as hundreds of other unsuspecting young men and women were unloaded from coaches that had transported them there like herds of innocent, stupid deer. The girls were tarted up, the boys were doused in Davidoff. The air was rife with sexual anticipation as the men and women were separated, forced to queue side-by-side to check in, and then ripped away from each other to kill time in what looked like a couple of aircraft hangers. Really all very sexy.
There we were kept waiting for literally hours. Like, seriously, hours. I made small talk with an overweight teacher who had brought his students’ homework to mark. Hot!! Eventually everyone was lead through the “date room”, which was bedecked with streamers, heart-shaped balloons and champagne fountains for later. We were then sent into a massive room and split into two halves. Half of us were sat on one side, the other half on the other. A massive stage lined the centre of the room.
For the next few hours (literally, like six hours) the announcer proceeded in calling out everyone’s unique reference numbers. Mmm…tastes good! One half of each couple went off to the left, the other to the right and one by one were united on stage in front of everyone. They then had to walk hand in hand down a catwalk whilst everyone cheered. It was fun – for the first hour. Then it became hideous.
It was quite clear that they’d screwed up the system. Certain numbers weren’t accounted for and there were people there without a partner to meet in the middle. The afternoon dragged and dragged. A camera crew paid special attention to a particularly cocky looking guy who was very “camera-ready” and was followed all around the event. He was given a rose to give to his partner. He and his partner were called first. These were obviously the strategically placed actors who will, I’ve no doubt, be followed for the rest of the series and probably get “married” at the end. As the day went on, the hundreds of eager singletons there became more and more depressed and unenthusiastic. The two halves of the room were starting to merge in a desperate attempt to come away from that event with at least one person’s phone number. About half of the crowd were matched…it then came to the rest of us. The producers ditched the whole “walk down the catwalk” aspect to it and ended up dragging us into corners and desperately trying to locate our matches. Mine was someone who lived hours away from me. We were tired and not in the mood to flirt.
By this point, people were panicking about the fact that they were still in this nuclear shelter on the side of a hill somewhere and not on the coaches that were supposed to get them back to the various rail stations around the country that they would catch trains home from. Danielle, Nicola and I were all ushered through to the “date room” with our partners. By this time, the champagne was all drunk and the balloons were flaccid. We wanted to go home.
Thankfully I had driven, so the three of us ditched our dates and got into my car. By this point, I didn’t care about anything anymore and I screeched off across the tarmac to get off the site. It was dark and raining at this stage. Not in the romantic way. Ahead of me was a tractor-type thing that was moving at the speed of a porcupine, so I overtook it and zoomed off around the corner. No one had actually informed me that I was meant to be following this tractor – it was supposed to lead us off site – and instead I ended up on a deserted hillside road, with lots of “sharp gradient” signs on it and a load of vertical, sheer drops. “This is surely the way out,” I thought, zooming down the hill, the steering wheel of my car shuddering, with Nicola and Danielle deathly silent in the passenger seats. It soon became clear that I was on some kind of death-road and I turned the car around – nearly driving off a cliff-edge in the process – and went back uphill. I was soon faced with a barrage of rescue vehicles with their orange sirens spinning, who had been notified by the tractor driver that a crazy guy had decided to drive off down the test-dummy road that was strictly off-limits to the public. I was shouted at by one of the security squad who had been dispatched to rescue us. I then argued that if he had been subjected to the day we had been, he would have taken a risk on a death-track also.
Needless to say I wrote a strongly worded email and demanded that Fever Media refund all my petrol money and attempt to return the dignity I had lost that day. Nicola got a date out of it with a rapper from Manchester. Danielle and I got more action from each other that day than we did with any potential love interests, when she accidentally grabbed my gear-shift as I maneuvered down that hilly mound.
Anyway, before the event we had to record a video diary about what we expected. I can’t for the life of me remember what I said in mine but apparently it might feature. It will be sickeningly positive, as I was totally ignorant to what I was letting myself in for. I sincerely hope they don’t use it. But if you do happen to watch the show tonight, what I’m sure has been edited as a jolly old day out was, in reality, hell’s dating service. Good luck to the actor and actress that will have made it to the altar by the end of the series.
– – A