Meet the Parents: A Step Back Towards Arranged Marriage?

We’ve all seen Blind Date, Take Me Out and First Dates before, ITV dating shows that make us laugh and cringe in equal measure. Just when we thought they’d covered dating from every possible angle, they’ve only gone and created another one: Meet the Parents.

This one sort of blends the premise of Blind Date and First Dates together, but with one mortifying twist; the fate of your success in securing a date rests completely in the hands of Mum and Dad. Indeed, for most of us, the thought of your mum talking you up to a boy you quite fancy and doing a spot of awkward inappropriate flirting is enough to make us slightly gag, but this is the premise of this new show. What’s more, if the reviews are anything to go by, the British public love it. (We’re a weird bunch, clearly).

Essentially, three contestants appear on the show with their parents who always seem to be armed with a sharp selection of sexual innuendos, embarrassing stories and some heart-felt speeches extolling their children’s best traits. The parents take their seats centre-stage while the contestants are ushered off into a room to the side, out of view of the sexy single who’s about to take to the stage with a very Take Me Out style grand entrance. Overseen by Holly Willoughby, the single person asks the parents a series of questions about their child which are always answered with the maximum amount of cringe humanly possible, which then triggers the camera to zoom in on the contestants sat bashing a pillow against their head in absolute horror or doing a panic-run around the room while the audience roar with laughter.

After all the questions have been answered, the lucky contestant is chosen and they’re sent off on a date that the parents obviously spy on, and ultimately gate-crash. (I don’t know why the contestants act so shocked because it literally happens every single time). At the end is the classic, “do you want to see each other again” question, where we see the contestants looking bashful and beaming yes and then awkwardly kissing, or there’s a long pause, one of them says no and the shot quickly cuts back to Holly pulling a pouty face and looking disappointed.

The notion of dating shows is something that ITV has embraced more and more in recent years, as the idea of watching two people hook up on air who will then probably go off-screen to have sex becomes more acceptable; something that the BBC continues to recoil away from. Channel 4 have gone even further than ITV in their increasing liberalisation as their most recent dating show Naked Attraction involves choosing your date from a selection of three stark naked people.

Meet the Parents isn’t following this trend of increasingly risqué dating angles, but some could argue the show represents a step backwards towards traditional courtship and arranged marriage; looking back to Victorian and Edwardian Britain where your partner would be chosen by your parents and your union would have been selected based on economic and social gain. A far lighter and more humorous version of course, but the show undoubtedly resonates with these ideas that social liberals fought so hard to escape. It is interesting that we have progressed far enough as a society that a return to these 20th century structures is a funny novelty we can all laugh at. Meet the Parents is a light-hearted mockery of the old-fashioned way of dating, reminding us how it used to be as we continue to progress forwards into this era where (to our confusion) naked dating on TV is completely normal.

Edited by Jess Shelton