I’m a relatively late convert to the Channel 4 programme Come Dine With Me – it’s been running five years, and I’ve only just really started watching in the last few months. And yet it is compulsive viewing. I’m not sure when it’s actually on TV, but thankfully there’s almost always new episodes on 4OD for me to watch. I quite often find myself sitting and watching all four or five episodes of a particular city in one go.
It’s a brilliant format, with so many variables in each episode. Can the people cook? Will they be able to cook on the night? Will they get along? What are their houses like? How drunk will they get?
What absolutely makes the programme is the wry commentary of its VO guy Dave Lamb – and there’s an interesting interview with him here on the C4 website. Omniscience really helps him stay funny.
The other thing that sets CDWM apart from other programmes is its choice of music. I’m a little bit out of it when it comes to music, so I’m probably missing half the jokes, but there have been some hilarious pairings of music with actions. An artist got the Heartbeat “gallery” theme music played as his paintings were displayed. Some of the leitmotivs associated with particularly annoying or snobby guests are brilliant – but the best bit I’ve heard lately was when a flirty young man arrived first at a glamorous older woman’s house, and as she showed him into the parlour, the band struck up with… the theme from The Graduate
There are so many variables that there doesn’t seem to be a sure fire way of winning every time. But there definitely seem to be some things that regularly go down really badly and should be avoided:
- Cooking something you’re unfamiliar with or have never tried before. Why would you do this? There’s £1,000 and your credibility on national TV at stake! The least you could do is practice. Cook the menu for friends beforehand!
- Spending a fortune in an effort to impress. Srsly – hundreds of pounds on caviar and foie gras? A king’s ransome on the wine? Stick to good wholesome homecooked food.
- Cooking something too complicated. Unless you have a kitchen/diner where you can cook and play host at the same time, you need a menu which doesn’t need too much last minute attention, so that you can spend time with your guests. Your saucepans already know what you look like.
- Getting too much outside help. It’s all about whether you can cook, not whether you know top chefs who can come in and fix things up for you.
- Being a complete nutter/having a complete lack of self-awareness. To be honest, if this is you, then a) you probably don’t realise it and b) you’ll have been chosen for the programme because of this and you should probably play to your strengths.
For the last few months, me and P have been jokingly discussing whether I could go on the programme, and I have looked into it. There are all sorts of hurdles to me doing it – the dish selection would be constrained by crockery (if the starter is in bowls the pudding can’t be!) The house is not ideal and would probably need a professional remedial clean. I don’t even have matching cutlery for five.
Still, it would be interesting. I’d love to know how it all works. How many camera crews are there? Do the guests leave one by one so that the camera can go home with them, then come back for the next drunken invité with the score cards? How much kit do they put in your house? Do contestants ever even meet the VO man?