The Accursed 90s: Televised Lad Contests

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When people talk about toxic masculinity, it’s hard to imagine a more virulent breeding ground than the mid-late 90s; a time when men were led to embrace the worst bullet points of their gender stereotype like never before. If you had to portray the era in one of those spinning-newspaper montages, it’d be a whirl of 18-30 holidays, Chris Evans’ TFI Friday and Cool Britannia, and lads’ mags like Loaded, FHM and Sky; tomes filled with aspirational pieces about being a bloody bloke, interviews with craggy old footballers, rockers and celebrity gangsters, and hot TV presenters in bikinis talking about sex. Even on the global stage, everything was similarly XXXtreme, like it’d spilled from a frathouse on a wave of beery vomit. How better to get a sense of the power dynamic between lads and ladettes of the time, than watch the battles to crown a Lad-King, while they desperately grasp for a mate, in the pre-swipe world of televised dating?

Despite running for two series, episodes of ITV’s Man O Man are almost impossible to find online, falling in the digital blind-spot that ingested much from the late 90s to about 2005. In that period when people had dropped VHS for DVD, but were yet to have Youtube or decent broadband, and before TV could be easily ripped to a computer without a capture card, great swathes of television output were either unshareable, or deemed unworthy of keeping. Man O Man fully deserves to stay in this hole, but survives as a single episode taken (of course) from a horrible VHS, beginning with a second-long glimpse of Cornershop performing Brimful of Asha, deemed by its curator to be less historically important than what it was wiped with.

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Man O Man‘s vibe is established by its opening theme of Mousse T’s Horny, a song that literally informs you “my dick is hard/my minge is foaming,” over and over again, like a toddler in the back seat telling you it’s bored. The show begins, as everything did in the 90s, with shape-throwing dancers being clapped along to by an audience; sang along to — Horny, Horny, Horny! This refrain is the pounding backbone of the night, like a tribal pagan chant from its exclusively-female audience of 400. Horny, Horny, Horny! There’s the feel of a hen night mixed with civil unrest; riot police fending off pink cowboy hats and rampant rabbits. Horny, Horny, Horny! It’s an announcement that hundreds of fannies are busting for a sex, as hands clap and feet stamp, threatening to collapse the bleachers. Horny, Horny, Horny! and baying for blood, albeit blood that’s crammed into stiffening tunnels of erectile tissue.

Tonight’s winner seems likely to be fucked to death; his flattened remains burned inside a giant wicker clitoris, with Chris Tarrant hoping it somehow fixes the poor yield of the failing alcopops crop. “I’M HORNY!” chant the audience, unruly and restless; HORNY, HORNY, HORNY! even as Tarrant enters, to show off the winner’s prize. A £10,000 motorbike, it’s draped in not one, but six half-dressed girls, in flawless period-accurate sexual excess. Our ten contestants are introduced in VT; classic 90’s men with gelled hair and enormous shirts, who give thumbs up without a shade of irony. These are men who say “while you’re down there, love,” who live for footie, bacon sarnies and Only Fools and Horses; men who shout “Oi Oi!” as a greeting. More than just men, these are Lads.

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They emerge onto the stage – HORNY, HORNY, HORNY! – as the crowd rise in unison. Our twenty-something contestants are full of 90’s cheek; one does a Bruce Forsyth pose, another fucks the air, most do terrible dancing. It’s likely many of these specimens are someone’s dad now; bald and tired, and saying how music these days is just noise. To begin, each must introduce themselves with a brief, five-word statement. These stanzas of the damned, if spoken one after the other, will ignite Judgement Day by summoning the thousand-eyed beast with a dozen dicks. Oi Oi! Let’s meet our contestants.

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Simon, textile consultant & sci-fi fanatic, declares “I’m Simon, and I must be barking mad!” Nothing dates a thing to the late 80s-late 90s like jokingly inferring that you’re crazy; a time spent twirling a collective index finger at the side of our temples, and telling folk “keep taking the tablets!” In a self-fulfilling prophecy, twenty years on, we are all on tablets, just to drag our broken selves through another miserable day.

Stephen, “who once had a date with a large lady who kept passing wind,” introduces himself with “hi, I’m loveable, loyal, lickable; a luscious lad.” Unthinkable in today’s patter market that such a banter-boy could drop all those Ls without invoking “legend.” The pre-911 landscape was wild.

Paul. An insurance broker, claims his nickname is “Tripod,” (inferring he’s got a big one, girls!), yet nervously shifts on the balls of his feet, gazing at the studio floor as he mumbles “alright? I’m tall, cool, and ready to reveal all.” Huge screams at the suggestion of seeing a big willy.

Tim is the smallest of the contestants, bespectacled and lost inside a gargantuan shirt, the youth worker and “wannabe surfer” (like how I’m a wannabe millionaire?) gets the worst reaction so far, his Robbie Williams-inspired intro, “I’m Tim and… let meeeee, entertain you!” inspiring chants of “Off! Off! Off!

The rest includes Matt, a fireman whose job reveal almost takes the roof off; Andy, with a cracking pair of curtains, who claims to have been mistaken for DiCaprio; James, who owns a snake, but ruefully pleads “I’m scared witless, so please be… uh, please be gentle,” and Kieron, snowboarding lifeguard, whose handsomeness receives such a boyband frenzy, the leaping audience almost fall out of their croptops. Tarrant informs us the watching girls each have electronic devices under their seats — just to take the edge off, no doubt. Oh, electronic voting devices, I see.

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Round one is a dance-off. Supposedly, you can tell how good someone is at sex by how they dance, and if that’s true, most of this lot must be asking “have you cum yet?” five seconds after pushing one of their balls in. Under the sound of screeching catcalls and Sister Sledge’s Greatest Dancer, the lads listlessly jig on a stage, writhing and grinding, each with a five-second solo. One drops and fucks the floor, a couple straight grab their dicks to wild screams. Andy Curtains pretends to swing his cock like a rope. Tim breakdances. Nervous James does one lazy spin, like he’s forgotten why he’s gone into a room, and gets the fuck out of there.

There’s hi-tech computery music and close-ups of fingers prodding buttons as the audience vote, with the lads stood in front of the studio swimming pool, in a line that’s fittingly suggestive of execution by firing squad. The deal here is eliminations are revealed by a model pushing the losers in the pool. She teasingly moves up and down the line caressing them, all under the instrumental of HORNY, HORNY, HORNY; on a permanent loop here in Hell. Lickable Stephen is gone, so too Mark the fishmonger, and, one assumes with some relief, James. The survivors blow kisses to the baying audience, and there’s a continuing sense that everyone’s so horny, we’re teetering on the precipice of a 410-person orgy (Chris Tarrant just watching).

There’s nothing more uncomfortable than bad improv, and round two involves Tarrant reading aloud a story for the lads to act out, to demonstrate their sense of humour. Perhaps the defining characteristic of the self-style Lad is the unwavering and incorrect belief that they’re funny, confirmed here by these bozos’ exaggerated mimes of sneezing, scratching their arses, and getting poked in the eye by a straw. For me, this triggered a strong emotional sense-memory, Quantum Leap-ing me back to the period, amid the shrieking laughter of girls amused at unfunny lads showing off, while me, a comic genius, crafted elegant nob-gags alone in the corner. Today I’m telling my jokes on Patreon for $75 a month, while those losers are probably trapped with careers and families. Who’s laughing now?!

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For the second vote-off, another pair are shoved in the pool, this time by special celebrity guests, Melinda Messenger and Philippa Forrester. Though I’m sat here sneering at all the grotesque public displays of lust, the sight of 90’s-era Forrester in leather trousers causes a maudlin minor-key rendition of HORNY, HORNY, HORNY! at the writing desk. Tarrant asks what her bugbear in the opposite sex is, and she weirdly goes on about men leaving coins everywhere — “why don’t they have a purse?!

I’ve an immediate sinking feeling, when round three is revealed as ‘the kissing round,’ with five volunteers from the audience for contestants to pick from “and demonstrate how to give a girl a kiss that she’ll never forget.” Ensuring one lady will cruelly be picked last on television, there are various kissing displays, from chivalrous hand-pecks and actually getting off with each other, to the fireman sweeping her into his arms and planting one, all under squeals of clitoral apoplexy from the crowd. Then it’s Tim’s turn; little Tim the ‘funny’ nerd. He beckons his choice with a finger, instantly clasping her face tightly in his hands, inducing her immediate panic. An actual cry of “No!” can be heard as she tries to escape, while he bundles her hard to the studio floor, pinning her down with his full weight to force a kiss. He leaps to his feet, shirt popped open, pumping his fists with a victorious “YES,” aggressively punching the air in celebration, while she holds her head, aghast. Chris Tarrant chuckles about the “range of kisses” on display, following a really horrible moment that would be a fucking scandal today, but at the time, was just a great big laugh. See for yourself.

Next, it’s the singing round, performing love songs backed by the house band, led by Philip Pope, of all people. The guys are expected to properly sing each song at great length, with most completely tuneless, and their voices quaking with nerves. I’d expected Tim to thrust away to I Wanna Sex You Up, but he goes with the still-on-brand Everybody… number from Blues Brothers, with the little fucker falling over his own feet as he screams up and down the stage. But it’s Kieron who steals the show, with barely the first syllable of Robbie Williams’ Angels out of his mouth before inciting mass orgasm. In 1998, it’s guaranteed 100% of the Man O Man audience would have Robbie; clown prince of being an obnoxious wanker; as their dream man. He’s so funny and cheeky, ain’t he?! Invoking him in such a libidinous environment is like dropping a match in a box of dynamite, and as 400 women sing and sway along to Kieron like he’s the real thing, we cut to an ad break, presumably so crew can get sandbags down before the studio floods.

For the next vote-off, Tarrant reveals the third guest. After Messenger and Forrester, which era-befitting siren could it be? Jo Guest? Gail Porter? No, it’s Vera Duckworth. Are they Horny, Horny, Horny on Corrie too? Asked by Tarrant what she likes in a man, she replies “ooh, thighs… ooh, yeah. And a nice mouth.” Alright, steady on. We’re now down to the final three; ‘Tripod’ Paul, Kieron, and Tim, who reacts with a big double-fist “YES!” after another inexplicable survival. We briefly meet the contestant’s mothers, or “mummies” as Tarrant repeatedly says, making me feel sick. Tim’s posh Irish auntie says “he’s game for it,” as he pumps his fist. Paul’s mum looks annoyed to be there, says her son’s a useless bighead, and does a visibly big sigh when it’s over.

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The lads then take Blind Date questions from the celebrities. Forrester’s is an oddly aggressive ask about the correct temperature to wash sheets, after stripping a stinky bed the morning after. “Cos we know, don’t we?!” she yells, playing to the fellow girls and scornfully shaking her head at stupid men who don’t even know how to do laundry. When asked by Vera for his best lines, Tim, who bundled a woman to the floor and forced himself on her, responds “I feel that chat-up lines are really degrading to women and degrading to men.” Thankfully, the audience see right through it, showering him with boos. “They clearly agree,” he says, “NOT!

But even amid the massive shirts, gel-combed hair and shonky sexual politics, nothing so solidly places Man O Man as a show of its time like Melinda’s question; “are you brave enough to tell your girlfriend a new dress makes her bum look big?!” Before J-Lo made it acceptable and Kim K aspirational; before shifting beauty standards made it an necessity for squats or implants, to reach maximum thiccness, the 90s was a world where big arses were frowned upon, a disgusting imperfection, perhaps worth ditching your partner over. For clueless Millennials who don’t know what a cassette is, the notion that there was a time, a mere 20 years ago, when big ol’ butts weren’t desired, but something appalling to be avoided, must be aneurysm-inducing. That one-note joke from The Fast Show, with the woman asking “does my bum look big in this?” must be interpreted completely differently by those born either side of the century.

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The last round, as is tradition in contests which reduce humans to meat, is swimwear, with the final three in little shorts, gyrating and grabbing their williams to the Full Monty soundtrack. Like anything shirtless from this era, it’s shocking to see the kind of bodies that wouldn’t be allowed on TV now, in our culture of gym selfies and protein tub pyramid schemes, and here without an ab or tattoo to be seen. They bring out Ace from Gladiators to flex, before a chin-up contest, which Kieron blasts through, leaving the audience chanting his name, while Tim can barely reach the bar. The little turd does comedy muscle poses by the pool as the final vote-off arrives, and gets an undeserved kiss from Philippa Forrester before she finally shoves him in. Of course, as was clear the moment he stepped onstage, handsome Kieron is crowned champion, to the chanting refrain of four-hundred rabid women — HORNY, HORNY, HORNY!

Shockingly, though it seemed he was set to be devoured by the audience, like that bit in American Gods where she eats the bloke with her chuff, Kieron went on to have a career as a TV presenter and actor, including voice work on World of Warcraft and How To Train Your Dragon. But what happened to youth worker and absolute pest, Tim? I’m sure, many years on, he considers his Man O Man appearance an embarrassing youthful folly, and would be happy to seen it scrubbed from history. Not quite. As I scrolled up from the Youtube commenter complaining the two shortest guys went first, I noted that it was Tim himself who uploaded the footage.

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When exploring crass 90’s dating shows, the other side of this cum-rusted coin is surely God’s Gift. Another ITV show, but from the very start of Lad Culture, three years earlier in ’95, God’s Gift was strictly a late-night effort, as opposed to Man O Man‘s prime time family slot, meaning they could further push the boundaries of libidinous mating rituals. Our host here is Davina McCall (with Claudia Winkleman taking over the following year), accompanied throughout by an in-studio voiceover man, who effectively commentates over the onscreen action like they do on the wrestling.

As I’ve found when researching pop culture of the past, you’ll constantly come across the since-disgraced; fallen, jailed, and cancelled celebrities, occupying roles that seem specifically chosen for eliciting the greatest shock-face in its far-future viewers. Here, that announcer, who bids Davina flirtatious hello in a deep, Barry White sex-voice, receiving excited whoas from the audience, is now-convicted sex offender and Yewtree grab, Stuart Hall. Far from his trademark fits of giggles, this is Hall after-dark, horned up and beginning by reading a romantic poem to Davina and a girl from the audience he remembers from a previous appearance, because of her big boobs. Don’t worry, he was replaced in the second series. By Jimmy Savile. That sounds like a bad joke, but look it up.

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If Man O Man was about the well-established alpha Lad, then Gift‘s contestants are the proto-Lads at the start of the movement. Over the hour, their thin veneers of confidence will be chipped away, gradually revealing them to be nervous, inexperienced, afraid of women, and generally wretched. In the main, this is due to the audience; the judges; likewise a collection of excitable 18-24 year old women in bra-tops and colourful baggy trousers, but unlike Tarrant’s hen night, the shrieking girls of God’s Gift are more in control, with higher standards, and not about to be swayed into conniptions by the unbuttoning of a shirt. Also, with its smaller budget, the girls are within reaching distance of the fellas, roaming free on the studio floor like a nightclub; or more accurately, like TFI Friday, with the most attractive, least-dressed ladies pushed up the front. Make no mistake; this was made for blokes to wank over when they got back from the pub.

On that note, I can’t not mention Davina’s nipples, peering out through a white t-shirt like a snowman’s eyes, in that 90’s fad of everyone’s nips being on show constantly. If Friends had been around in the advent of 3D TV, we’d all be wearing eye-patches now. So too the set design is blisteringly of its time, with a garish colour scheme of weird, day-glow shapes bent at funhouse angles; all multicoloured swirls, spiky comic strip impact shapes, and a bright yellow vintage fridge just randomly plonked on the side. This is the battleground for five contestants who’ll compete to “prove their manliness,” with the winner taking an audience member of their choice on an exotic date.

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When the lads come out, it’s a reminder of a time before we became self-aware and self serious; like the Man O Man boys, each prancing and giving thumbs up. As a culture, we’re now drowned in irony, unable to be real. Like teenagers morosely refusing to smile in a school photo, the sort of personality who’d apply for a show like this is now hyper-aware that everyone’s watching, all the time, even if only via Instagram stories, and could never let a moment of earnesty creep through. These chaps have no such worries, hailing from a time where you could unironically shout “wahey!” and nobody would call you a pedo.

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Matt, a small, slight chap with a “top sense of humour,” sets the tone by thrusting his groin. Davina patronisingly says she’ll mother him. “I’ll mother ‘im!” comes a lecherous cry from the audience.

Nigel‘s introduced with a crashing power chord, and wearing sunglasses indoors. He pulls comedy muscle poses, as Stuart Hall informs us the psychology student is “ready to probe your mind… or whatever you want probing.”

Garfield is sadly not the cat, but a 19-year-old human who works in window displays. “He’s got a lot to display,” says Hall “as you’ll see as the evening unfolds.” So, what, he’s been measuring all the lads backstage as part of his duties? Hall keeps going on about the “big gun” on the small teenager, and his constant interjections have the gruffly focussed tone of a man who’s tugging himself off in the recording booth.

We’re rounded out with Billy, a cocky lawyer who enters with a double-bicep pose, and Anthony, from Burnley, who’s shy and gets a big “aww” from the assembled sex-harpies. “Burnley’s the sex centre of the British empire,” Hall informs us, multiple times through the show.

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This is classic early-period Davina, mucking about and really personable, before she soured on me by treating Makosi like a war criminal in her Big Brother eviction interview, all for playing a gameshow like, you know, a gameshow. Round one, or as it’s called here, Test One: Stud-U-Like, sees the lads attempting to mimic the hot guys you see in adverts that make Davina think “I’d give him one!” Nigel’s tasked to spray deodorant sexily, while Matt has to shave, though he’s clearly not capable of growing a beard. He’s so nervous he drops his props, and resorts to holding the shaving can by his crotch and spraying a load of ‘cum’ out of it, to rub over his nipples. “Go on, you naughty boy!” taunts Hall. “Your schoolmaster won’t be pleased when he sees you on Monday morning.”

Anthony shows off Mickey Mouse boxers like he can’t believe something can be so funny, and tries to put on a pair of trousers he’s gotten out of the fridge in an erotic way. Reader, he fails. “Them legs ain’t bowed,” says Hall, “they’re just pleasure-bent!” It’s then we take our first turn from the twee into the vulgar, with a horrible close-up of a flopping posing pouch stuffed with nob, as Billy comes out inexplicably bare-arsed and pretends to fuck a bright yellow bathtub. His cock swinging back and forth, Davina runs in to cover his hole with a cue card. In later years, she’d tell a story about a contestant yanking down his trousers to reveal a shit-smeared arse.

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The voting mechanic to see who’s most popular is mildly terrifying, with the lads sat on stools as every girl in the audience “runs screaming and shouting” to stand in front of who they like best. Poor Matt’s got just two girls in his line, while Anthony, the current leader, is taken out into the crowd by Davina and asked what kind of girl he’d go for. “This one right here,” he says. Davina suggests the stranger “give him a quick kiss” and they proceed to get off with each other, as we hear off-camera screams of chaos. The MO of God’s Gift seems to be ‘how can we make this unbearably awkward at every turn?’ Though it was meant for post-pub titillation, having a tommy tank over this must’ve been the Russian Roulette of its day, suddenly cutting away from an audience hottie in a strappy top and leaving you to lamentably ejaculate over footage of some tosser breathing on his nails and polishing them on his shirt, in the most 90’s way of proclaiming yourself to be great.

At one point, Anthony’s ex is pulled out of the crowd. This isn’t a planned bit; she just turned up with her mates to watch the show being taped, and realised to her horror, her ex-boyfriend was one of the contestants. She clearly doesn’t want to be on camera, as Davina shoves a mic at her face, demanding “you’ve actually been with him, haven’t you? What was he like?” YEAH, WAS HE GOOD AT SEX? WHAT’S HIS WILLY LIKE? YOU SHOULD KNOW; IT’S BEEN INSIDE YOU! GO ON, TELL EVERYONE AT HOME! The poor girl, trying to hide behind Davina, is frozen with nerves, unable to utter a sound. “I think that says it all!” says Davina.

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Test 2: Smarm or Charm is the patter round, where the lads roleplay chatting up audience members in a supermarket. Matt tells the girl to put her porridge back and “have yer oats now” (he means his cum (cum from out of his penis)), while Nigel opens with the incredible “have you been shopping long?” Soon he’s demanding booing audience members shut up, and defending himself to an angry Davina with “it was kind of a metaphor for summink.” Unable to simply get his dick out, Billy’s similarly lost and mumbles incoherently, while Anthony straight-up asks his girl out, even if he doesn’t win. She says yes.

So far, so kind-of-innocent. Then it’s Test 3: Suck it and See, which commences with the vile phrase “sucking the little belly button.” As five girls from the audience lay on their backs on the floor, the whole thing feels very disorganised, like a team-bonding exercise at a call-centre, with nobody sure what’s happening. Davina walks them through it, by first cleaning the belly buttons with q-tips and a cloth. One girl has second thoughts, sitting up, but is told to lay back down, and ensured “he’s not gonna hurt you!” As the clock starts, the lads are ordered to “get sucking!” What follows are super yucky shots of dudes going down on belly buttons, with Davina sticking a mic in the women’s faces as their bellies get tongued, and not even listening to them, like when Lord Alfred Hayes cut off Stu Hart at Summerslam ’91.

Davina: “He’s doing well, is he?

Girl: “Yeah, well he’s not–

Davina (already moved on to another girl): “What’s your name?

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The lads have to mop all their flob off the girls’ stomachs before Davina can interview them, and their reviews range from “dreadful” to “it was alright.” At this point, let’s take a short break and go the the good old reliable Youtube comments.

I’ve been looking for YEARS to find a gods gift episode with a toe sucking game. In this episode the “suck it and see” is licking bellys. If you or anyone can get me a toe sucking part I will happily pay you money! (paypal, quick pay, good wallet, or cash app) Not joking. This is a mission in life I’m on!

Please help!

The next test should be called Chinny Wreck-On, Mate, as contestants have to confess the biggest skeleton in their closets. Matt says he likes wearing women’s clothes, and used to dress up for his girlfriend. “Very sad,” spit back a disgusted audience, who aren’t into it at all. Though in the next round, asked what kind of girl he goes for, Matt admits “I dunno, I’ve never had one,” spending the rest of the show a broken figure. Meanwhile, Billy reckons he fucked his sister’s girlfriend at a party, and Garfield’s story involves seeing two girls at the same time, unbeknown to each other, and having to run back and forth between opposite ends of a restaurant during a double-date on the same evening. Yeah alright, Mrs. Doubtfire.

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Nigel’s is markedly less funny, though he’s certainly chuckling away at his anecdote of getting a girl so drunk at a party that she blacked out on the bed, unconscious. He then hitched up her skirt, pulled her knickers off and shaved her pubes into a heart shape, before taking a photo and sticking it up in the student common room for everyone to see. Davina and the audience are shocked at the cheeky bit of 90’s sexual assault, but in a comedy “what are you like?!” way, as he pumps his fist like Arsenio Hall. The girls in the audience clearly love a good sense of humour, as following his story, harmless prankster Nigel’s got a huge crowd of women voting for him. Billy Bum-Out, however, is doing so badly, a pitying Davina suddenly announces to the audience “he stopped three guys attacking a woman once!

In Test 5: Larf or Barf, they’re given 30 seconds to perform a party piece. Now, I’m not saying they’re of low quality, but Matt’s impression of “Bert and Ernie off Sesame Street, yeah?” which involves saying their names over and over, is the only act that doesn’t get booed off. Though in the case of Nigel’s self-penned ditty, which got as far as the opening line “on top of my Sarah, covered in sweat,” I’d like to have seen where he was going. To prison, hopefully.

As is the law, final test, Bare Essentials, is the ‘bods out for the gals’ round. Unless you’re both ripped and a decent mover, there’s no way for a bloke to look sexy while swaying around, unbuttoning his shirt. Beneath thumping techno, they unveil physiques that would be laughed at on a modern dating show, with Anthony tossing his shirt into the crowd, drawing a reaction as though he’d flung some roadkill at them. The kecks come off, which incites actual wooing, until Billy reveals his bare arse again, flopping his dick-pouch at them, and turning the shrieks to those of horror. Sickly virgin Matt, emaciated in purple y-fronts, is utterly lost; first metaphorically and now literally stripped bare, arm nervously wrapped around himself, with all the mediocre bravado completely gone.

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For the final vote, Get Gartered, the lads wander into the crowd in their pants, soliciting votes by having garters slid over their arms. By now, the audience seems bored, locked in the tiny, sweaty studio, forced to stare at the antics of five dunces. Davina talks to a girl who can’t even remember the name of who she voted for 10 seconds ago. They roll a video of the previous week’s winner, who asks a woman in the crowd if she’ll be his date. “I don’t know if I can,” she says, but is berated into a dubious “okay…” by Davina. He does a casual to-camera piece while sat on a toilet, taking the girl by limo to a Turkish restaurant. She describes the food as “different,” which is always a good sign, before they get off with each other really grossly (even though she deemed him too short), and end up announcing they’re off back to hers for some 90’s shaggin’.

Back at the studio, Anthony is crowned the winner, and thus, God’s Gift. He doesn’t pick the girl he previously asked out in the patter round, nor is she acknowledged, but makes an immediate beeline for the blonde in the PVC dress Stuart Hall read the poem to earlier. He has to get down on one knee to ask, and they make his ex-girlfriend watch. PVC-girl says yes, “but only if he takes me out for a meal.” It’s a weird set-up. What if the chosen girl says no? Is there no date? Would the winner have to keep asking different girls until they get a yes? It seems from last week’s VT that anyone who’s not keen is just cajoled into it. Anyway, the pair are given a bulky analogue camcorder to shoot a video diary for next week, I guess of them shitting then fingering in the back of a cab?

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In a grim piece of God’s Gift trivia, even considering an actual necrophile was the voiceover man, in its first series, the show held a gay episode, which was still controversial in 1995. During the taping, one of the contestants, chef Anthony Morley, met audience member and future contestant, Damian Oldfield. Thirteen years later, Morley would murder Oldfield, dismembering his body, and partially eating his flesh. Unsurprisingly, Paddy McGuinness, the spectre of 90’s masculinity haunting our modern day, was also a contestant at one point. I’m not sure which is worse.

But as horrendous as these shows were, there’s only so much we can blame on the cursed decade. Yes, the fashions, sexual politics, and dance moves were mortifying (as ours will seem in 2039), but there’s literally a show on TV right now where contestants show their genitals through a hole so people can judge if the nipples are too dark, or if the dicks are big enough, or so small and gross they don’t even want to see the tiny-dicked loser’s face. Whatever the decade, whatever the prevailing culture, if you reduce the search for sexual partners to a gladiatorial setting, nobody comes out well. Plus, as even proven by me, sneering from up on my high horse, and yet occasionally glimpsing an audience member and thinking “cor, she’s nice,” as a species, our defining quality is that, mostly, we’re just horny, horny, horny.

This piece first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could read it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as $1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s a ton of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi.

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~ by Stuart on April 8, 2019.

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