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As a rule, I’m a dab hand at dating shows. I watch them (whisper it: I usually rather enjoy them), scrub briskly with Dettol, then get on with my life.
New show Sexy Beasts sadly proved to be not worth the Dettol. The question it poses (could you fall in love with someone based on personality alone?) is a flimsy fig leaf for a premise that adorns people (mainly model types) in a variety of disguises (wolf, alien, pixie, frog, zombie et al) before a picker chooses from three hopefuls. So, for instance, would Emma (Devil) want the Mandrill (“I’m weak for big boobs”), the Stone Man (likes a “big ass”) or the Mouse, who reacts badly to being eliminated first: “Your loss.”
Other contestant lowlights include a sexist male Beaver (“Ass first, personality second”) and a Rhino who’s into “sex kung fu”. By now, anyone sane would be trying to break out of “Sexy Beast Manor”, but instead there are dates: cue flirting so leaden that it’s a wonder the bar stools don’t collapse beneath them; “conversation” that mainly comprises humblebragging about not wanting to be judged on your looks; and, finally, “reveals”, where the contestants unveil their true innate gorgeousness. Ta-da!
Later, the guys decamped to Casa Amor, where, as seasoned viewers know, influencer love goes to die
I was primed for Sexy Beasts to be a hoot (and, no – thanks for asking – I don’t get out much), but it’s deeply unsatisfying, and not just because narrator Rob Delaney appears to be in a state of deep shock. Sexy Beasts commits the cardinal dating show sin of being a romantic dead end. With contestants scattered all over the UK and US (it’s mainly filmed at Knebworth House, Hertfordshire), there’s scant chance of anyone developing a relationship, and each show abruptly terminates as the masks come off, leaving viewers with an overwhelming sense of … daters interruptus? I mean, even Naked Attraction sends people on dates after they’ve popped their knickers back on.
A previous Netflix hit show, Love Is Blind, also had a “personality-first” principle: people dated in darkened pods before emerging into the light to marry, fall out or both. In last week’s reunion, After the Altar (spoiler alert), Lauren and Cameron continued to adore each other, while the mighty, hair-tossing Giannina vented at commitment-phobic man-brat Damian. Meanwhile, Amber and Matt still hadn’t forgiven Jessica for attempting to detonate their relationship: in one wonderfully awkward moment, a conciliatory gift-bag offering from Jessica was rejected with icy disdain.
In other dating show news, viewers who’ve abandoned Love Island for “reasons” (underwhelming islanders; scary bikinis that resemble fabric ring pulls) may have been too hasty. The first truly gripping moment of the series occurred at a fire-pit recoupling, when Hugo berated Toby for his shabby treatment of Chloe. Please note that, in Love Island terms, Hugo breaking bro-code in this way passes for Arthurian gallantry. Later, the guys decamped to Casa Amor, where, as seasoned viewers know, influencer love goes to die. Sure enough, the faithful began to morph almost instantly into the faithless. This perhaps is where Sexy Beasts falls down: modern dating is already full of people wearing masks.
Professor T, an ITV remake of a Belgian detective series, is a curious affair. It stars Ben Miller as Professor T, a criminology lecturer at the University of Cambridge, who is asked by a student turned police detective (Emma Naomi) to help with cases. While initially he refuses – “I do not catch scumbags, I study them” – he eventually complies.
Professor T has a dark childhood past (Frances de la Tour as his overbearing mother turns out to be the least of it), and OCD that manifests in a stiff demeanour and the snapping on of surgical gloves. He also has fleeting visions: in the episodes I’ve seen, students transform into battery hens; a cancan erupts in a corridor; there are Sixth Sense-style materialisations of the dead.
Is this de trop for a Sunday evening? Has my lazy British brain been overconditioned to expect a glossy Poirot or a chilled Endeavour? A key problem is that with episodes only an hour long, everything (crimes, suspects, red herrings, denouements) unfolds at such speed, you start wondering if plot-induced whiplash could be a thing. While there’s an abundance of imagination and characterisation in Professor T, it desperately needs space to spread out.
In India, rapes are reported every 15 minutes, while an estimated 90% of attacks still go unreported. The documentary India’s Rape Scandal, presented by Ramita Navai and directed by Jess Kelly, focused on two rape cases that became mired in police corruption, political coverups and murder.
Teenager Jaya (not her real name) was raped by politician Kuldeep Singh Sengar, of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party, and then gang-raped by his henchmen. In time, Sengar was convicted, but not before, among myriad other horrors, Jaya’s father was so brutally beaten that he died of his injuries.
Manisha, 19, eventually died after being gang-raped, strangled and left with a fractured spine. Manisha and her family were Dalit, a lower caste than the attackers, and, as with Jaya, there are signs of police, judicial and political coverups.
Featuring a host of courageous interviewees (sedition laws in India make it dangerous to speak out), the programme also highlighted the determination of Jaya and Manisha to be heard. Jaya, a scarf wound round her face, is shown outside the chief minister’s house, trying to set herself alight to get attention. The footage of Manisha, lying on a concrete slab outside a police station, croaking, as she struggled to communicate, went viral around the world. Manisha’s case has since been taken up by prosecutor Seema Kushwaha, who won the 2012 Delhi bus rape case.
Manisha’s mother’s tearful pleas to be allowed to prepare her daughter’s body were ignored, and the family were excluded from the hasty cremation; footage showed her burning pyre in a field, flames flickering and spitting into the night sky. This was a haunting documentary, raising complex issues that continued to weigh on the mind long after it finished.
What else I’m watching
Watch the Sound with Mark Ronson
A docuseries in which Mark Ronson exudes his signature gentleman-producer of pop vibe, explaining how his songs, and others, are created. It features conversations with collaborators as diverse as Paul McCartney, Beastie Boys, Questlove and Charli XCX.
Face to Face: Evelyn Waugh
BBC Four | BBC iPlayer
A chance to revisit this infamous interview from 1960, featuring the gifted and acerbic novelist being rather difficult, obstructive and superior, but also occasionally hilarious. Interviewer John Freeman steadfastly hangs in there.
BBC, Eurosport, Discovery+
The Team GB medals keep piling up, but all eyes have been on US gymnastic phenomenon Simone Biles, who pulled out, frankly citing her mental health difficulties. The powerful message: sporting superstars can be vulnerable too.