Come Dine With Me: falling into its inescapable trap

Unrivalled in its ability to showcase the worst of people, Channel 4's Come Dine With Me sucks viewers into an ineludible abyss...

This article comes from Den of Geek UK

Dinner parties are rubbish, they’re just dinner with added pressure. Why add pressure to dinner? It’s probably the best meal of the day. Come Dine With Me dinner parties on the other hand, are amazing. Intrigue! Underhand tactics! People riffling through strangers’ bedroom drawers! They’ve got it all.

For those who don’t know, Channel 4’s Come Dine With Me entails people from the same area each putting on a dinner party on consecutive nights in the hope of winning £1000. They all score each other out of ten and with any luck, someone kicks off.

There is something wonderful about watching a group of people who have been thrust together in such an unusual situation – who will make the most disastrous dish? Who will refuse to eat anything? Who will have semi-nude photos of themselves casually ‘laying’ around the house for their new friends to see?

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Sidebar: has anyone ever actually looked up a recipe from Come Dine With Me on the Channel 4 website and saved it to their personal scrapbook? If you have a personal scrapbook, know that we’re all judging you.

With Come Dine With Me, you can be as judgemental as you want because narrator Dave Lamb lets you. You can judge people’s homes, personalities, cookery skills, hosting skills and manners. “Oooh Mark hasn’t taken Leslie a gift and she took him a bottle of wine and some homemade chutney yesterday” is an acceptable observation. If someone concludes “the food was delicious and the atmosphere was great but my dessert was served in a bowl rather than a square plate so for that reason I’m going to give Jeremy a 3” then you may justifiably call them a knobhead; Dave is probably calling them worse. He has an incredible knack of zeroing in on something very small in someone’s character and assassinating it beautifully.

At the start of Come Dine With Me, Lamb did straight voiceover work, no jokes, just reporting. Thank God he realised how much the general public love watching people getting the piss gently taken out of them.

Regular civilian Come Dine With Me is unrivalled in its ability to showcase the sort of people who deserve to have the piss gently taken out of them. They’re folk who’ve reached middle age without having yet come across anyone who’s told them how awful they are. This lot truly believe that they are amazing and can’t accept that their fellow diners just don’t get it. They are obsessed with making everything from scratch. They make everything from scratch and don’t understand why their competitors don’t personally grind the flour for their own focaccia or catch the cod themselves. This is because they went to a Michelin star restaurant once.

One of my favourite things to happen on Come Dine With Me is when a host genuinely thinks they are on a cooking show. They say things like “I’ve got a great trick for asparagus, instead of chopping the ends, you can snap them off” or “an easy way to get the juice out of a lemon is to squeeze it with a fork”. These people are treating their Come Dine With Me appearance as an audition to be the next Rusty Lee. I am yet to see that happen, but who knows. Keep it up.

Another favourite are the people who have never tried any food ever and are not prepared to start now. In life, I believe you should be allowed one thing you really will not eat under any circumstances but that’s it (obviously not including serious allergies. Being a contestant on Come Dine With Me is no way to die). If you really hate fish then that’s okay. But if you are someone who has got to the age of twenty-five who has never eaten a vegetable then, mate, you really need to start trying them.

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I love seeing the relationships develop over the week. It’s oddly satisfying to see people who have probably lived in the same town their whole lives make friends with someone who they perhaps never would have met otherwise. Have you seen that one in Liverpool where they’re all great mates and the guy decides to become a vegetarian thanks to his new vegan pal? They all start crying and it is genuinely very moving.

Better of course, is when two people immediately hate each other. These are generally people fighting it out to be the star of the week who don’t want to share the limelight with gobby Amy from Doncaster.

Come Dine With Me teaches that a great way to make a dinner party with people you’ve never met even more awkward is to add ‘entertainment’. What’s more fun than having someone you barely know sing/dance/recite poetry in your face? Often shunned by the classier contestants of Come Dine With Me, ‘entertainment’ is what separates the casual diners from the desperate-to-win diners. Said entertainment can range from hired professionals to the extrovert host who hasn’t managed to make it past the first round of Britain’s Got Talent. Nobody ever learns that there’s never enough room for dancers. Don’t hire dancers for your dinner party. Front room ornaments and the Can-Can do not mix well.

Now I must mention the sore losers. Mainly so I can put in this video:

And this one:

That done with, let’s move on to Come Dine With Me‘s international spin-offs and hybrids, two of which have a special place in my heart: Celebrity and Couples.

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Couples Come Dine with Me is a revelation and whoever thought of it is an evil genius. My advice is, don’t spend money on expensive relationship counselling, go on Couples Come Dine With Me. It is a harsh but fair process that will help you learn the truth about your relationship by holding up a mirror (camera) to it. Are you a mollycoddling wife who hates her husband? Embarrass and emasculate him on television! Are you a control freak who thinks their wife should be completely subservient? Watch her eyes scream ‘HELP ME!’ at an awkward dinner with two local couples! Not sure why your boyfriend won’t propose after a 12-year relationship? Ask the four random people who have come round for dinner. Not only will they tell you, but you could also win a thousand pounds into the bargain.

Celebrity Come Dine With Me is the main show’s trashy relative. ‘Celebrities’ are given show homes where they cook for other ‘celebrities’. In Celebrity Come Dine With Me things that sound like a made up Jim’ll Paint It picture actually happen. Remember when David Gest (RIP) hired Mickey Rooney (RIP) to just sit there to welcome his guests Loose Woman Sherrie Hewson, EastEnders’ Hannah Waterman and showbiz gardener Diarmuid Gavin? That was weird. Only Celebrity Come Dine With Me provides the answer to the eternal question: “Do Louie Spence and Sinitta get on?”. Sadly, that answer is no. Like really. They hate each other. (Please refer to the earlier point about limelight stealers).

The best episode ever of Celebrity Come Dine With Me is the unrivalled Footballers’ Special when John Fashanu describes a salad as succulent. Fash also states that, although not a drinker himself, he knows that you keep your red wine chilled and the white at room temperature. It is more wonderful than Christmas (I have it recorded so I can relive it whenever I want).

Come Dine With Me is so powerful it can cause time travel. Flick over to a single episode, blink exactly once, and it will instantly be 2 ½ hours later when you’ll find yourself watching a woman named Karen push a grand’s worth £20 notes into her bra and ride around on the back of small business owner Michael. Whether or not those 2 ½ hours were entertaining is completely the luck of the draw. They could have been a hilarious romp in Burnley or a civilised and pretty boring week somewhere in the Home Counties. It doesn’t matter, you started it and you won’t have any choice but to finish it. That is the Come Dine With Me law.