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Just before my mother left our house to enjoy a lorra lorra laughs with her friends she always came into the sitting room to give me a quick reminder of her maternal affection: a peck on the cheek.That's rather apposite, because Blind Date was undoubtedly the light entertainment equivalent of a peck on the cheek: nice, wholesome, earnest, comforting, and always leaving a faint but pleasant impression.During Cilla's reign as Queen of Saturday night light entertainment she managed to capture the essence of that bygone, buttoned-down Britain of saucy postcards and bus-trips to Blackpool.Take Me Out, with its shrieking cavalcade of bouncing boobs and barely decipherable neck tattoos, offers instead the promise of a lorra, lorra chlamydia, and a quick reminder from our God of why we don’t deserve to endure as a species. Thirty immaculately-coiffed nightclub banshees stand behind specially designed ‘sex lecterns’, passing judgement on a single male who descends into the studio on a small platform known as ‘The Love Lift’ (which I’m certain must be street slang for ‘Viagra’).“I think we’ll stay friends,” one of them would say, “but, you know, the sort of friends who don’t see or talk to each other ever again.” The whole concept and execution of the show felt harmless and innocent despite the odd stutter-step, like the show's American cousin The Dating Game unwittingly fielding one of the most prolific serial killers in US history, Rodney Alcala, as a contestant.HOT SEAT CONTESTANT: “Contestant 3: If you were a cloud… ” SERIAL KILLER NO 3: “A cloud who enjoys murdering people. ” If Blind Date was a peck on the cheek, then Take Me Out – its flashier, noisier, nastier offspring – is a full-blown tongue down the throat, complete with unwelcome groping.If he's chooser or chosen, then he wins, and gets to go on holiday to the Isle of Fernando (the real location was too embarrassed to use its real name) with a woman who will ultimately grow to loathe him in less time than it takes Jack Bauer to save the president from a terrorist attack.
The female contestants would always deliver their quips with a saucy giggle and a Timotei-style flick of the head, while the men would deliver theirs in a spirit of such oily slickness that Greenpeace would eventually have to be called in. In 'weather' or not you’re going to choose me, of course. I'll take you to Cloud 9.” At this point the audience would woop and ahhhh so loudly that time would cave in on itself, and Cilla would link hands and dance on stage with a chorus-line of dinosaurs and Mongol warriors.The disembodied voice of God – who in those days operated under the pseudonym of Graham – would occasionally boom out its approval, doubtless becoming increasingly nostalgic for the Old Testament days of wine, locusts and genocide (Incidentally, ‘Wine, Locusts and Genocide’ is also the title of Mel Gibson’s upcoming autobiography).Once the three had been whittled down to one, the partition went back and the two contestants - chooser and chosen - locked eyes for the first time.That memory, that association, is never complete without Cilla Black – the nation's favourite surrogate aunty, always resplendent in a series of shoulder-padded blazers, smiling down on my childhood like a ghostly Yoda at the end of Return of the Jedi.As my mother's hair-dryer voomed into life in the kitchen, I was to be found in the living room watching Cilla on Blind Date, contorting myself on the couch (emphatically not a euphemism), often upside down, a combination of ever-stretching limbs and rising hormones making it impossible for me to sit properly and at peace for any significant length of time.