While it feels like the dating show genre basically starts and ends with the Love Island villa, people have been going on TV looking for love (and maybe just a quid or two of prize money) for years. But in the last few years the genre has really taken on a life of its own: now, we're all pretty much dating show loyalists. From The Ultimatum to Married at First Sight there's a lot of choice, so we've very helpfully run the numbers (ahem) and put together this tried and tested ranking of the best and most horrendous dating shows ever. Binge responsibly.
Love Island, 2015 - now
Remind me: As if you need reminding. It actually began in 2005 with a celebrity special, but didn’t really become the show we know and love until 2015. You know the drill: 'sexy singles' head into a villa and couple up with each other in a bid to win the ultimate prize: cash and love (love not guaranteed).
Success or flop? Love Island is probably the biggest dating show around, with millions of viewers, huge cultural influence and practically its own language #Muggy.
Memorable moment: Entire volumes could be written on this, but if we had to pick one it’s got to be that awkward moment from self-proclaimed villa barista Curtis: “I want to be the person that gets up and makes everyone a coffee so everyone’s ready for the morning.”
First Dates, 2013 - now
Remind me: It’s the dating show that never fails to warm our hearts. The show takes place in a restaurant where everyone is on a blind date, and at the end they have to say if they want to see each other again or not. Their backstories are basically always tear-jerking.
Success or flop: This show has been a massive hit, has won awards and set up lots of happy couples.
Memorable moment: Without a doubt the date between Aaron and Ibiba who met on series 5. They’re now happily married and have an adorable little girl. Cute!
Blind Date, 1985 - 2019
Remind me: Future generations will never know the joy of settling in on a Tuesday night to see Scouse royalty Cilla Black set up blind dates through a series of saucy, wink-wink questions.
Success or flop: The show ran for a solid 34 years so yes, you could say it was a success.
Memorable moment: The episode where Cilla rumbled an undercover Cosmopolitan journalist who was on the show to write a feature about the experience. Iconic, and not just because she was one of our own.
The Undateables, 2012 - now
Remind me: The series follows the dates and romances of single people with disabilities who signed up to a dating agency.
Success or flop: In the decade since the award-winning show first aired, it has gained a huge fanbase. While the name attracted some criticism, people love the heartwarming romance and the important stories told by participants.
Memorable moment: The 2018 Christmas special when Daniel proposed to Lily. She said yes and as they danced together afterwards she told him “I’m so happy.” Sob.
Too Hot To Handle, 2020 - now
Remind me: A group of outrageously attractive people spend the summer in a house together, wearing skimpy swimwear and coupling up. Except they’re not allowed any sexual contact whatsoever; if they do, they lose prize money.
Success or flop: Nobody knew if Netflix’s answer to Love Island would be a hit, but it turns out that the drama involved in not having sex might be better than the drama involved in having it.
Memorable moment: When Georgia from series 3 managed to hold it together while Patrick sung her a song on his acoustic guitar then ended with an “I love you”. They were two days in.
I Wanna Marry 'Harry', 2014
Remind me: This US dating show followed 12 women who came to the UK to compete for the heart of 'Prince Harry'. If the speech marks didn’t already give it away, that man was not Prince Harry…
Success or flop: In terms of so-bad-it’s-good comedy value the show was a hit. In terms of being an actual TV show? It was cancelled after just four episodes.
Memorable moment: The idea that anyone would believe this man who was evidently not Prince Harry, was Prince Harry. The impersonator himself, Mathew Hicks, has since said in interviews that he didn’t think any of the women believed it at all.
Beauty And The Geek, 2005 - 2008
Remind me: The show followed a group of 'beauties' and a group of 'geeks' competing in challenges and looking for love. And the $250,000 prize money, of course.
Success or flop: The show got a fairly big viewership, but after two seasons fans started to feel like it was losing its charm and it was swiftly cancelled.
Memorable moment: The absolutely outrageous descriptions showrunners created for the contestants, e.g, “Has only kissed one girl”, “Lives with parents” and “Sweater vest enthusiast”.
Room Raiders, 2003 - 2009
Remind me: One single person would investigate the bedrooms of three single contestants looking for love and based on what they found, they’d decide who to date.
Success or flop: Growing up you probably loved this show. But just step back for a second. The dates were “kidnapped” and shoved into a van where they watched a screen showing a stranger going through their stuff. This isn’t TV, this is chaos.
Memorable moment: The contestants were always given a blacklight to use in their prospective dates’ rooms. The stains were harrowing and no more needs to be said on the matter.
Date My Mom, 2004 - 2006
Petition to MTV to air reruns of 'Date My Mom' pic.twitter.com/WOPXvfmhMt
— zh (@ZachHynoski) November 1, 2018
Remind me: The series followed one person who went out on dates with three mums who each try to convince them to date their son or daughter.
Success or flop: The show has an IMDb score of 2.2, so, what do you think?
Memorable moment: The bit where the date involved getting real, actual tattoos. We hope it was worth it.
Dating In The Dark, 2009 - 2016
Remind me: It’s pretty self explanatory. A load of single people are set up on blind dates that take place in complete darkness. The idea being that they get to know each other’s personalities first. Basically an early Love Is Blind.
Success or flop: At first people liked the premise but it’s impressive how quickly strangers meeting in the dark gets a little dry.
Memorable moment: Painfully and honestly? Every scene when the lights go on. People can’t hide their reactions.
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