Where Three have cornered the Friday night comedy lineup, Calum Henderson finds that TVNZ2 is running with a very different, stripped-back viewing experience.
It starts with a series of blind dates and ends with a line-up of six dangling, disembodied penises.
‘Love Fridays’, TVNZ 2’s belated ‘romance’-themed answer to Three’s successful Friday night comedy line-ups, shows the evolution of the TV dating show in three simple steps – and things go from zero to 100 pretty fast.
It starts off quaintly enough with Love Connection, a reboot of the popular US blind date show of the 80s and 90s. A lonely singleton – in this instance, a 35-year-old graphic designer who liked to go by his surname, Bacon – is matched up with three potential love interests. They go on blind dates, then ‘spill the beans’ to host Andy Cohen in front of a studio audience.
Each of Bacon’s dates were beamed into the studio via video link, like witnesses in his court trial. Their testimonies were more or less uneventful – he argued over the cheque with Jennie and got sloshed with Rachel, but in the end he chose Shawn, who had given him the highest attractiveness rating (an extremely generous 9/10). Because the studio audience had correctly guessed Bacon’s pick after the introductory videos, the pair walked off into the sunset with a $10,000 prize. Happy days.
While light and upbeat, the hour-long Love Connection quickly becomes tedious. It’s the kind of thing you would only watch for the promise of something much better to come – in this case the full-frontal nudity of Naked Attraction.
Alas, that is not for another hour. First, the gratuitously cheesy British show Take Me Out must bring us into the Tinder era with a line-up of 30 single women pouring onto the stage to the tune of late-era Britney Spears club banger ‘Til the World Ends’. Host Paddy McGuinness (Irish, would you believe) introduced the first bloke, Tony from Newcastle, asking the assembled horde: “Girls, are you turned on or turned off?” Two of the thirty women immediately activated their red light to signal their disinterest in the northerner.
In his introductory video, Tony talked of his love for his daughter and his job satisfaction working in a sewage treatment plant. Both revelations triggered an exodus of eligible partners. After three rounds of negotiations he finally got to take his pick of the remaining women and whisk her off to the ‘Isle of Fernando’ for a date. Footage of a previous couple’s rendezvous showed them having a predictably awful time together.
In this context, what comes next doesn’t seem quite as shocking as it might on paper. The main event of ‘Love Fridays’, dystopian-sounding British show Naked Attraction takes six romantic hopefuls, removes their clothes and has them each stand inside a sci-fi pod which gradually lifts to reveal their naked body to their potential love partner. “It’s almost as if you don’t see six penises every day,” host Anna Richardson remarked drily after the first set of suitors were revealed from the waist down.
Richardson guided 32-year-old music producer Ina as she carefully inspected the six male appendages. “What kind of willies are you drawn to?” she asked, and the pair forthrightly discussed Ina’s likes and dislikes, occasionally breaking off for a brief physiology lesson: “Women have been attracted to a firm bum for centuries” and other universal truths.
The rest of the hopeful singles were revealed in stages – first the upper body, then the face and finally the voice. Ina had to eliminate one of them at each stage, enduring an uncomfortable hug as the rejected nude wandered off to an affirming compliment from the host. “You have a lovely bum,” she told the computer science student, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
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When it got down to the final two, Ina had to get her kit off and join them in an awkward three-way stand-off to decide who she would take on a (fully clothed) date. She chose the bloke with an artificial leg and a tattoo of an elephant placed so that his penis looked like the trunk. The pair hit it off, had a successful date, and lived happily ever after – or at least seemed glad for and emboldened by the experience.
A generous reading of Naked Attraction would say it is one of the most progressive shows on TV, that it promotes a sex-positive attitude and body confidence for all shapes and sizes. A more cynical reading would be that it’s just an extraordinarily convoluted way of sneaking some titillating full-frontal nudity onto free-to-air.
Either way, at the end of a long ‘Love Friday’ line-up, it is surprisingly the one that makes you despair for humanity the least.
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