What’s the Best TV Show to Watch While You Eat?

We think we’ve got the perfect one.

A TV dinner on a tray with cutlery
Photo: Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty

Supernanny might tut. Let her, for she has no dominion in 2024. If we choose not to eat around a table while gazing at our loved ones, but instead to do it in front of the TV while gazing at Romesh Ranganathan, then it’s really not her lookout or anybody else’s. 

Having your tea on your lap in front of the telly is a necessary pleasure, and one that stretches back for generations – all the way to when the first little neanderthal was plonked in front of a cave painting of a buffalo hunt and given a mammoth tusk to suck. A warm plate balanced on knobbly knees in front of Gladiators? The essence of childhood itself. A bowl of M&S Pad Thai inhaled in front of The One Show? Sir/madam, I see you are a sophisticate.

Granted, it’s not a flattering visual, more pigs-at-the-trough than Norman Rockwell painting, but guess what? Nobody’s looking. The people on the TV can’t see you dripping spaghetti hoop juice down your t-shirt and sucking up potato wedges like an old-fashioned pneumatic mail tube. Nor can they interrupt you. The only thing that can interfere with the pleasure of this act, in fact, is picking the wrong show to watch. Based on years of behaviour that would make Supernanny tut her way into outer space, here are the rules of what to watch with your TV dinner.

No Medical Shows

Obviously. The last thing anybody needs while sawing into a sausage is to look up and see the affinity between what’s speared on the end of your fork and what springs enthusiastically out of a patient’s gut when the surgeon’s scalpel presses in. Even for the strong-stomached, anything set in a hospital – up to and including any shows likely to include even the most tastefully disguised shots of the business end of childbirth (not now, Call the Midwife) – is a nope. 

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No Posh Cookery Shows

The disconnect is the problem. To watch a chef’s shaking hand tweezer a solitary pea shoot onto a dish more beautiful and better composed than most paintings hanging at the Louvre, and then to look down at the Homepride tuna pasta bake coagulating on your plate is to feel unevolved. You’re no longer competent as a human being; you’re an amoeba watching an eagle soar, or a regular-looking person watching any movie starring Natalie Portman, and it does not feel good.

No Toilet Humour

Belches, farting, vomit, snot and poo. Even in animated form? No, no, no, no, no, thank you. 

No Wildlife, Zoo-Based or Dog Adoption Shows

This one’s about the guilt. Unless you’re a gold star vegan who refused even to drink your mother’s milk, then at some point in your life (and very likely still) you’ve been nourished on animal life. Imagine watching the first unsteady steps of a greasy calf, or an inquisitive duckling beak break through its shell, or getting emotionally invested in the hard-won victory of a mother deer having protected her baby from a predator, while chewing your way through a mouthful of them.

And for the dog-adoption shows: dogs are precious, but also gross. 

The Answer!

Quiz shows. It’s the only sensible option. They’re bloodless, odourless and basically radio, so your dinner won’t get cold while you keep having to look up at the screen. The perfect one would be entertaining but not too tricky, with a format that allows you to only have to pay intermittent attention. Many quiz shows fulfil these criteria, but my vote goes to Richard Osman’s House of Games: it’s fun, familiar, and very likely to feature Su Pollard, making it the perfect teatime companion. 

Any advance on that?

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