Image: Radio Times
Image: Radio Times

Young, Free & Single – aka ‘People with Reproductive Organs Living in a House’ – is the latest show to treat singles as a tragic species

If you’re twentysomething, you may remember in the nineties a certain distinctive toy: the goo aliens. They were slimy and weird, and if you rubbed two of them together they would magically produce a baby.

Channel 4 would like to make goo aliens out of unattached people in its latest offering: Young, Free & Single. Hosted by Steve ‘I snogged Angelina Jolie once’ Jones, the show shoves six love-hungry individuals into a ‘dating house’ in the hope that they’ll rub up and down together like, well, goo aliens.

Similar to most romance TV, its participants seem to come from a relatively small pool of people. In fact, I would guess that the makers of Take Me Out, Dinner Date and Love Island stole their stars from a Wetherspoons dancefloor – one night shoving them into a van and wheeling them into a studio. “Fancy copping off with some people you’ve never met before?” they asked their victims.

Luckily for the programme, they found participants who were not only happy to go on dates on television, but would also bump and grind their compadres at the first sip of a pina colada. The dates ranged in success: one couple had sex (or something resembling it), the other an argument and there was also some eating.

The show is live, which makes out for gruelling, social-media friendly television. As each participant goes on a date, audiences can vote on Twitter – using a hashtag – whether they should ‘Ditch’ or ‘Date’ their companion. I felt a bit sorry for the datees – in particular, an angry scouser called Jazz and a guy who looked a bit like a foetus in a Lankester Merrin hat, who were both rejected on very shallow terms indeed.

Despite its digital-savvy and interactive format, Young, Free & Single hasn’t done much to reinvigorate the desperately oversubscribed ‘romance television’ market. The problem is that only thickos want to do dating television. And maybe that’s because intelligent people have worked out that shoving two people together on a reality dating show isn’t really conducive to true love, however open-minded you are.

Mostly, such a system results in excruciatingly awkward outings, that neither party has the diplomacy skills to extract themselves from. Instead they end up coming across like animals in the zoo, gawped at across a screen by their higher more romantically-successful counterparts.

But the main problem for me is the stale formula of Young, Free and Single. It ends up being boring because, ultimately, putting two complete strangers together and expecting them to be like goo aliens rarely works. And dead-end endings get rather tedious after a while.

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