Romeo & Duet



Oti Mabuse


Bandleader: Vikki Stone


Goat Films for ITV, 16 April to 11 June 2022 (7 episodes in 1 series)


ITV's press office tells us:

Oti Mabuse has swapped glitter balls for Cupid’s arrows as she takes the reins of ITV’s brand-new dating show Romeo & Duet.
With her irresistible warmth and enthusiasm Oti leads the musical matchmaking as single love seekers stand on a breathtaking balcony and are serenaded by potential love matches that they can hear, but not see.
"Breathtaking"? That depends on how fast you climb the stairs.

Each show sees four couples formed. A picker is introduced with a bit of chat and a display of photos on the video wall, then climbs the stairs to a balcony to be serenaded by a succession of potential matches, who they will hear but not see – not because of the balcony itself, but because of a descending wall that divides the stage into two distinct areas. (Since the balcony isn't critical for shielding the contestants from each other, in principle someone who can't climb the stairs could just do the whole thing at floor level - it's a pretty big stage with lots of space to move around so there's no reason why the picker's movement couldn't be horizontal instead of perpendicular.) We are shown a very brief and not very informative backstage VT of each singer before they come on stage to sing a song, usually accompanied by the house band (though we’ve also seen a solo performance with the singer performing to his own guitar). There are no "cringe" singers here; everybody on the show can not only carry a tune, but also has experience of working an audience. They may not all be full professionals, but they'll all be editing these performances into their showreels on Sunday morning.

Picker number one... This! Is! Your! Life!

While the picker can’t see the auditionee, they can see the studio audience, who can and will signal whether they think the person is a good match. While this is going on, the picker can come down the stairs – they’re obviously briefed to come down a little way anyway, and many of them will use this to actively tease the audience – and make their choice by descending all the way and standing on the hearts at the bottom, at which point the dividing wall is lifted, introductions made, you know the drill. If the picker doesn’t select that singer, there’s a "here’s who you rejected" moment before the next singer is brought on. The pickers have up to four singers to choose from, though they’ll rarely if ever get to the fourth.

It's showtime!

The point of all this is that the end of the show, the newly-formed pairs will perform duets, whereupon the studio audience pick their favourite, who win an activity date provided by an experiences company.

We haven't seen this much purple since Prince died.

Dating shows have been part of the TV landscape since the 80s, and by now the deal is well established: they’re a terrible way of actually creating romance, but quite a good way for show-offs to get themselves a few minutes of TV exposure. And that's fine. Keep us entertained, and we'll go along with the pretence that they're in with a shot of finding love, even though it almost never pays off.

The picker's lifeline: Ask the Audience.

With Romeo & Duet, they may have pushed the pretence too far by attaching it to a competition that, shorn of the dating stuff, would actually make sense on its own merits. It wouldn’t necessarily be a great format, but forming four musical partnerships from scratch and having them perform at the end for a prize is actually a coherent idea that could be made to work. But that’s not what we focus on. We get brief backstage clips of the couples "preparing for their duet" but very little actual rehearsal. There are three "assistant musical directors" listed in the end credits who presumably are working with the couples, but we never see them. Discussion of song choice goes no deeper than "I love this song". Even musical director Vikki Stone, sitting right across from the host, all mic-ed up, doesn’t get to offer any insight beyond agreeing that a newly-formed couple seem sweet. In a Saturday night singing show, they’ll throw in quotes from Shakespeare but won’t dare alienate their audience with any talk of musicality.

The heartbeat of the show: Vikki and the, er... Heartbeats

At the end, Oti Mabuse signs off by telling us the show proves that music is the food of love, although surely if it’s proven anything, it would be the opposite. And if you’re going to start quoting from other Shakespeare plays, then we may have to counter that Romeo & Duet is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Do we expect anything more than that from a dating show? Not really… but the disappointment is all the harder when there’s a glimmer of a good idea in there, and the "dating" angle is actively working against it.

Key moments

The what happened next captions. What's that? You don't remember there being what happened next captions? That's because they were buried right at the very end of the episode, after the credits.


"Wherefore art thou, [contestant]?" - Yes, we know it doesn't mean "where", and undoubtedly so do the Baddiel brothers, so let's put this one down to trolling the pedants.

"I'm looking for a mezzo with a slight rasp in the lower octave." Only kidding, nobody on this show is ever going to say this.


Ivor and David Baddiel


The format was originally just based on the idea of serenading, and the Shakespeare theme was a late addition - which explains why it doesn't really make sense!

The show's run was interrupted twice; the fifth episode was delayed by FA Cup Football, and the last episode was delayed by The National Lottery's Big Jubilee Street Party. So long did it take ITV to air all its episodes, in fact, that the dead tree press were claiming it had been axed before its final episode had even aired.

Such was the show's impact that when about a year later Pointless asked 100 people to identify the show from a photo of Oti Mabuse and the initials RAD... it was a pointless answer.

Web links

Wikipedia entry


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