Friday, February 6, 2009

TV Dinners

If the plodding pace and po-faced sensibility of MasterChef - currently in the 31st semi-quarter final selection heats for the 2009 title - hasn’t yet grabbed your attention, the magic is unlikely to happen. Over on Channel 4, however, the infinitely more entertaining but surprisingly substantial snack that is ‘Come Dine With Me’ is quietly topping the food-related reality TV show charts.

Unlike its attention-grabbing, prime time contemporaries, CDWM doesn’t tackle ‘issues’, blow the production bank or claim to change lives. Heck, there isn’t even a presenter! Just five ‘ordinary’ people who have never met, each of whom take their turn holding a dinner party and attending each other’s over a course of five nights. Every host is marked out of ten for their efforts, and then, on the last night, they reveal who got the highest score. The winner gets £1000. The loser gets humiliated. And we get to attend the most excruciatingly embarrassing but enduringly fascinating social event going on in a neighbourhood near you.

Drag queen, landed gentry, student; obsessive compulsive, psychic, housewife; filthy bedsit, penthouse apartment, council estate; Iceland, Waitrose, KFC; bitching, romantic interludes, vomiting - it’s a game of consequences in TV format. And then, dinner is served...

Souffl├ęs collapse, pastry turns into charcoal, desserts are assembled on the floor next to the cat litter tray. A pole dancer in Dudley gets shitfaced before her guests even arrive, a history teacher in Devon presents six courses made entirely from ingredients reared or grown in his own garden, a female impersonator in Preston ‘does a Kate Winslet’ when he wins and donates the prize money to charity. Once in a while, someone claims to have been poisoned. Very occasionally, someone else makes a magnificent dinner. And elsewhere in TV food world, Gregg Wallace and John Torodezzzzzzzzzz...

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