A lot of things going for this TV series – its about food, its competitive – a different kind of gameshow, and its fun.
It’s a reality show, and I absolutely abhor most reality shows. Most of them are pointless, involving celebrities no one really cares about and a lot of this is staged I think.
However Come Dine… rises above all of that, and I love it!!
UK is where the best TV series as well as game shows that Indians love, have originated from. (OK at least folks like me) – before the invasion of the US networks with their partners. So quiz shows like Mastermind, the weakest link, as well as tv series like “Mind your language” and possibly the most outstanding writing and tv series ever (IMHO) – Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister.
Coming back to Come Dine With Me, the series pits four contestants (‘strangers’) against each other to host the best dinner party. Across a week, each stranger hosts a dinner post which the others rate the evening based on the food, hosting skills, entertainment etc.
All of this is captured as it happens, right from the cooking preparations to the actual hosting and even the taxi ride back home for the contestants where they give their feedback and rate the host.
One of the best parts about the TV series is the commentary from comedian Dave Lamb who is the voice-over commenting on everything happening on the screen, and he really lights up the TV series – it can be hilarious, and can open up embarrassing secrets or things the contestant is trying to avoid.
For me, the highlight after watching a few episodes (this came on BBC Entertainment a channel which operated in India briefly for less than a year before shutting down and moving out). The series caught me immediately and it was enlightening about life in the UK. (this series is difficult to pull off in a country like India).
But most it was revealing in human insights. The attitudes, opinions, group behavior are golden. As you watch, the show uncovers the person, his lifestyle, his attitudes but also what happens within a group and the dynamics. Food is almost secondary.
There will be some folks who are simply disorganized, have unhygienic homes, pets running around – replacing food that has fallen on the ground back on to the place, or picking parts of their body. And then you have the perfectionists. And then there will be surprises. Inexperienced young students as well as those who look really out of shape – would whip up the best meals in the group. And those who are sophisticated or close to the food industry would go awry. And some of the food would be really terrible – not to be served.
The show encourages folks to go overboard and the results can be hilarious. One lady put her pet snake on the table and it pooped right on the table. One had a naked waiter with something like a fig covering his vitals. The strength of the show I think lies in the fact that they choose really weird folks to ensure the group mix produces sparks. And I think they try and avoid the easy way out used by most TV producers i.e. they do not use actors or the usual lot of TV regulars. It’s an open secret that pretty much all of reality shows are staged, and since regular guys don’t look good or might not toe the script they get actors to fill in. There are times when Come Dine With Me does that (I suspect) but mostly its real life ordinary folk, and the results are hilarious.
The group can get into a brawl. There will be at least one obnoxious person who the entire group hates, and how they cope can be insightful. The sparks just fly. Some just loose their cool and in one extreme circumstance even walk out of the show (in spite of what the contract said). The pettiness of some folks as well as how they can be double-faced comes through. In practically all their shows, it is unlikely that the folks who came on the show will ever say Hi if they saw each other again.
But then there’s hope, and you see some groups where in spite of the competitive spirit, they just come together and have a lovely time.
And sadly like in life, that happens rarely. Come dine with me is a window into our lives, and a wonderful insightful series. Watch it!