We’ve all been guilty of yelling at the TV whilst watching a game show at one stage or another. Whether it be sitting in the living room with family, or laying alone in your own bedroom, each one of us has thought, I’d do better than that guy! I know I have, so I decided to address this.
“G’day and welcome to Taken-Out! Ladies we have got some awesome dudes for you tonight! The host instantly instigating a collective cheer from the studio audience “Single man number one, come on out!”
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Deal or No Deal and Wheel of Fortune are all Australian-based game shows that denied my ‘Contestant Application Form’. Games of merit involving skill, knowledge and prize money, that sadly, I will never have an opportunity to conquer.
Proving that God does have a sense of humour however, I was accepted by one game show; a game show where winners don’t walk away with cash and prizes, they walk away with awkward dates. I was accepted as a contestant on Taken Out- a bloody dating show!
My heart pounded the inside of my ribcage as I nervously negotiated each flashing step leading down to studio set. Excited applause filled my ears, whilst bright studio lights blurred my vision. Before I knew it, I was centre stage.
My first look at the studio put a big smile on my face. It looked just like it did on TV. Streaks of pinks, blues and greens dominated the set, and the exaggerated lighting created a completely unnatural feel. A large TV screen hung in the middle of the studio and under this stood our cheesy host, Curly.
“Alright Ladies, have a good look. This is Sebastian”
The game was simple. One lonely man would front a panel of thirty ravenous girls, whose sole job was to harshly critique and judge this helpless individual based on looks and personality alone. If the individual girl liked what they saw, they would stay ‘in’ by leaving their personal light on. If they weren’t impressed, it was ‘lights off’.
It was as cringe-worthy as it was shallow.
If, at the end of three judging rounds, there were any girls remaining, the man would get to choose one to join him on a randomly selected date. However in the case of a ‘black-out’ where no girls remained, the man would leave the stage red-faced in front of a national television audience.
Round one was based purely on appearance.
“He’s a surfer with a lot to get through! So, are you in, or are you out?”
Enter awkward countdown music.
I had only been on stage for thirty seconds and already I was being judged!
“Twenty-nine ladies out of thirty loving what you’re doing!” exclaimed Curly. The results were in and thankfully I had avoided a black-out!
Only one girl had turned her light off! It was amazing; I had never though I’d meet a girl as desperate for a date as myself, but here I was in room full of them!
Well, almost full. The voluptuous Jessica stood in darkness. Her light was off. Her explanation?
“I like a man that can spice things up a bit!” She went onto to suggest that I looked ‘unspicable’. Apparently, Jessica could judge book by its cover.
“We’re going to have a look right now at Sebastian’s life up close and personal”
Two weeks before flying to Melbourne for the taping of the actual show, a camera crew visited my Sydney home to film a ‘lifestyle package’- a video montage that would showcase my hobbies etc.
Much like a first date, I embellished everything in the vain attempt to appear more interesting.
This devious plan was unfolding perfectly as it played on the giant in-studio TV. Surfing footage effortlessly blended into guitar playing. Beach walking romantically merged into talk of love. I was a catch! But then just as quickly, it all fell apart. In my efforts to appear funny during questioning, I inexplicably burst into an impromptu dance performance of the Robot. Instantly, my cool edge was lost forever. I was now a clown.
Back in the studio, a short burst of elevator music and a flashing of lights prompted the second voting period.
Five of the smarter girls decided to turn their lights off. I was left with twenty-four girls.
Let it be said that I am not a dancer.
In the final round, the girls would base their votes on a pre-recorded video interview taken with the male contestants best mate. Dave filled this role for me. Annoyingly though, in the days leading up to the show, he refused to tell me what he spoke about, and so along with the twenty-four remaining girls in the studio at that moment, my eyes were eagerly glued to the screen.
“Anyway, we caught up with David, one of your very good friends” prompted Curly.
With that, Daves large head suddenly filled the studio screen.
I was positive that he would have dished the dirt on me, but to be honest he was fairly kind. I’d go as far as saying that he was positively nice. He later told me that they cut a lot of the controversial material!
It was a funny interview that saw him compliment, ridicule and embarrass me. He did lie once however, suggesting that I was the sort of guy who would spend his last ten dollars on a friend. Not true. After going on to tell the girls that on average, I ate one block of chocolate a day, I would never lend Dave ten dollars again.
The video ended, and the introduction of the same elevator-like music prompted the girls to vote for the last time.
“You had twenty-four, lets see how many are left right now!” quipped Curly
The results were almost instant. This time, four girls turned their lights off, meaning that twenty girls remained. I still hadn’t worked out where Curly was reading these figures from and as a result the camera would often catch me staring at the roof with a confused look, as if I was tracking a rogue fly buzzing around the studio.
I had been fairly lucky, up to this point, with the types of comments thrown at me by the girls. Previous contestants having been labelled fat, pretentious, stumpy, ugly and having teeth like an Englishman, would agree with me. This all changed though when Jade was given an opportunity to talk. Jade had earlier labelled me as ‘sexy’ when questioned by Curly, but with her light now turned off, he demanded a reason for the change in heart. After a brief pause, she then let rip
“He kinda looks like he smells like cabbage”.
The studio erupted with laughter, and even though I couldn’t check, I’m pretty sure everyone watching on their TV’s at home was doing the same.
I simply had to wear it. Flustered, we moved on.
With twenty girls still remaining and no more rounds to play, the game offered a new twist. It was now me who got to vote the girls out. I had to cull twenty girls to three, and then eventually whittle these three down to just one.
It was my turn to be shallow.
Curly stood me directly in front of the first girl whose light was still on, and asked me to decide her fait. I looked to my right and saw nineteen other girls staring at me anxiously to see what I did. I felt entirely uncomfortable. Relating my predicament to real-life, it would be like lining up twenty girls in a bar and then choosing one who would then have to buy you a drink.
I had no idea how to approach this, but soon found that an awkward comment followed by a firm press of their buzzer was the easiest way forward. Unfortunately, it was not the noblest way forward & . As I painfully eliminated one girl after another without explanation, I could feel the tension build. Truly cringe worthy. It was horrible. My Mum would hate me.
Eventually, I had picked three girls. I couldn’t tell you why I picked these three girls, but here they were now, standing on centre stage with me. The whole process was a blur.
Danni, an exotic dancer, excited me for obvious reasons. She was my early favourite. Tattoos covered her scantily clad body and multiple piercings suggested an experience with her would leave me short of breath. Sharn in comparison had a certain quirkiness about her, whilst Stacey D appeared quite wholesome.
I had to now eliminate two of these girls based on two questions that I had pre-planned. We were at the money-end of the show.
“What’s one thing that you want to do before you die?” I asked, realising only then that touching on death was probably a little dark for a family show.
Danni wanted to live a little bit more, Sharn wanted a promotion and Stacey D dreamt of bungee-jumping.
Up close, Stacey D now appeared too young for me, and so for this reason I eliminated her. I did this by telling her that I had been bungee jumping before, but between you and I, I haven’t. She retreated back into the darkness.
Being forced to deny so many girls, I felt like a worst human alive. I told Curly this. He replied,
“Well it’s going to get a lot worse now, you’ve got to say goodbye to one last girl”
He wasn’t wrong, it did get a lot worse.
My second question was slightly harder.
“Do you have a funny story to share? One that’ll make me laugh?”
It only took a few minutes to establish that the answer was no. The girls had been put on the spot, and didn’t react too well. The audience did laugh, but probably not for the reasons that the girls had hoped.
Based on this, I now had to make my final choice. I had no idea who I would pick. I asked to flip a coin, but this wasn’t allowed.
The idea of dating an exotic dancer teased my mind, whilst the likeability of Sharn was also growing on me.
The tension had built in the studio, and the two girls looked nervous. Curly prompted me make my choice. Silence was upon the studio.
Nervously, I spoke. I still didn’t know who to pick.
“So it’s lights off for…. you sorry” I stuck my hand out in a desperate attempt to spark my memory, but it was too late, and horribly obvious; I had forgotten Danni’s name.
“A double insult! Out! Just like that!” added Curly as the audience burst into laughter. My hands covered my face. I really was a bad man!
I never actually got a chance to apologise to Danni, so on the off chance that she is reading this; Danni, I’m sorry.
In the midst of embarrassing Danni and in doing so turning every girl around the nation against me, I had found my date. It was Sharn.
I wasn’t sure if she was happy or not, but I hoped for the former. We had a Thai-massage date to attend.
I was early to the midday date, and having already consumed a few beers, I decided to sit down in my massage chair and eat a few of the chocolates that had been prepared for us. By the time Sharn arrived, about 15 minutes after, I had moved onto the strawberries and had very nearly cracked open the champagne as well. Although late, she was chirpy and excited to be there. She sat down in the provided massage chair next to mine.
No more then three metres in front of us loomed an over-sized camera that pointed at us with intent. Behind it, a producer ineffectively crouched to create the illusion that we were alone. Next to him stood two cameramen each wearing backpacks full of AV equipment, and behind them, a shop full of spectators pointed and gazed at us.
“Now, just act normally, and forget that we’re here.” came the voice from the man who had just stuck two microphones to our necks.
What could be normal than this?
Half an hour later, the date was over. I had spilt champagne on Sharn twice, and had told several bad jokes. On the plus size, neither of us paid for the champagne.
Almost immediately I was swiftly separated form Sharn, and led out of the parlour onto the busy high street. Once here I was told that if I liked Sharn and wanted to pursue the relationship, I had an opportunity to meet her at seven thirty that night at the top of Melbourne’s Eureka Tower. There would be a rendezvous couch waiting. Sharn was told the same thing. The catch was that we couldn’t talk to each other to discuss our feelings. In fact, I noticed that Sharn had been ushered out of the back door to ensure this.
Without contact, the likelihood of being left at the top of the tower without a date was huge! With that I was told to go back to my hotel room.
As the time neared eight o’clock, it was clear that on this occasion it was me who was late for the date. Having explained my story to the amused Taken Out staff who were patiently waiting for me at the ground level, I was speedily taken to the eighty-eighth floor where the elusive couch awaited me. No one though would tell me if Sharn had arrived or not. The excited crowd of onlookers parted as I was chaperoned from the elevator, allowing a clear line of sight to the couch in front of me.
Illuminated by a bright camera light, Sharn was alone on the couch. She had already cracked open our celebratory bottle of champagne. I couldn’t stop smiling. I apologised for my lateness and sat down to share a glass of bubbly. This time, I let her pour.
In all honesty, I’m not too sure that either of us thought that the relationship would go further than this moment, but it was clear that we got on. We confimred this with a kiss.
If it wasn’t for the production crew, heavy lighting, sound boom and encroaching crowd, it would have been romantic.
The next morning I flew home.