Take Me Out debuts on Fox tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern.
Love, as Jack Jones once crooned, is life’s sweetest reward, and while Jones may not be the best source for romantic advice—dude’s on his sixth wife—he clearly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the inherent value of finding someone who makes your heart go pitter-pat and on whom you have the same general effect. Unfortunately, when it comes to looking for love as a game show contestant, the bar started relatively low with The Dating Game, and in the subsequent 47 years, the depths to which the genre of romance-related game shows and reality series have sunk are nothing short of depressing. After all, we live in an era when 30 Rock can offer up an instant-classic bit like MILF Island and dozens of would-be moguls likely responded “I don’t get why this is supposed to be funny. I’d watch the fuck out of that show!”
Surely no one reading this review is naïve enough to anticipate that Take Me Out, Fox’s latest contribution to the field, has suddenly emerged as an exception to the rule that all dating shows have to be top-heavy with contestants that you’d almost certainly never want to actually hang out with in real life. Depending on your comedic sensibilities, that rule of thumb may also apply to its host, George Lopez, who remains exhaustingly chipper in the wake of Lopez Tonight’s cancellation, though that can probably be ascribed to his apparently having been promoted to Master of Matchmaking (I’m not making this up: that’s how he’s introduced on tonights episode of Take Me Out). For what it’s worth, Lopez proves to be a relatively amiable host. In fact, if anything, viewers are likely to feel sorry for him, given how many different ways he has to reiterate the premise of the show.
Take Me Out begins with a gaggle of 30 single women—feel free to groan, but they’re referred to as the “Flirty 30”—who strut down a set of stairs and take their places behind a set of podiums, each of which has a light on the front. The same women will remain on the show until the end of the season, but each episode will bring a new crop of single men who arrive onstage via elevator—sorry, I mean the “Love Lift”—to the strains of the song of their choice, flaunt their goods from one end of the podiums to the other, and then meet up with Lopez in the middle to tell the ladies a little bit about themselves. From there, the poor bastards (to clarify, I’m speaking in this particular instance of the contestants rather than Lopez) must stand idly by as the field of 30 potential significant others begins to shrink, with those who are uninterested in the goods the gentleman of the moment is selling turning off the light of their podium. (This, by the way, is where you start feeling sympathy for Lopez, who introduces the procedure by saying things like, “If he’s not Mr. Right, turn out that light,” “If you’re feeling nuttin’, hit that button,” and… well, you get the idea.)
And so it goes for a few more rounds, with the women watching segments of pre-recorded footage about each of their prospective suitors which gradually reveal more bits and pieces of information about the men and their various proclivities, from being a mama’s boy to being OCD about the food they eat to being a member of the touring company of Stomp. Eventually, either all of the lights go out and the guy goes home, or the guy gets to select a date from among the women whose lights have remained on. All that we’ve been privy to thus far is a screener of the first episode, but the “on the next Take Me Out” segment at the tail end of the proceedings, we’re led to understand that each subsequent episode will feature recaps of the various dates.
Oh, right, I almost forgot: the dates, it seems, involve going to an establishment which, at least in the advance screener, remains utterly unseen but is described as—yep, it’s another groaner—“the legendary Lodge of Love at the Take Me Out resort.” Yeah, because true love always flourishes under constrained conditions.
Insofar as the contestants go, the women are effectively interchangeable from any other such series, a blend of the flirty, the opinionated, and the bubble-headed, with almost all of them easily placed on a magazine cover. A sample explanation for why one of them decided to leave their light on for a guy: “He’s a nice piece of meat: rare, juicy, and ready to have a bite taken out of him.” The choices of men are slightly less predictable insofar as they don’t all look like they stepped out of GQ—the aforementioned Stomp cast member sports a Mohawk and numerous tattoos—but in most cases, the women they end up taking out seem so obsequious with their answers to the final tiebreaker question that it’s laughable. (When asked what they’d do if their suitor gave them $50,000, the winning woman replied, “I’d buy myself some makeup and clothes, then I’d ask you what you wanted.”)
Not that you needed one more reason to avoid watching Take Me Out, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the show’s musical cues: if a guy ends up with a date, the two walk off to a painfully generic cover of Eddie Money’s “Two Tickets to Paradise,” but if all of the women reject him, it’s some random female vocalist moaning Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself.” This serves as a perfect encapsulation of how far outside the box the series is willing to go. Tune in at your own risk.
- One final reason to feel sad for George Lopez: at one point on the advance screener, he’s forced to assure viewers, “We’re blowing up on Twitter!” Talk about your wishful thinking.