Finally.. something decent to watch on TV

5 Feb

I have never understood why TV stations choose to air such rubbish over the summer period. A time when many people actually have time to watch TV. They take all the good stuff away – and replace it with b-grade rubbish. I mean, how much more ‘Two and a half men’ can Channel Nine put to air? Soon, it won’t be called Channel Nine – it will be the ‘Two and a half men channel’. Thankfully, pay television doesn’t quite follow the same formula. Slightly less restricted by the official ‘ratings period’ pay TV continues to air new series of some of my favourites. Topping my list at the moment is ‘Come Dine With Me’ (weeknights 8:30pm on The Lifestyle Channel). It’s funny, life-affirming and  a little bit cringe-worthy all at once.
Sure, it combines two of the most overworked genres going around – cooking and reality television. But it’s great fun. The concept is simple. There are five ‘contestants’. Each one hosts a dinner party during the week. Each participant gives their fellow contestant’s dinner party a score out of ten. The winner gets 2 grand. So far, so simple. The beauty of this show is in the casting. Recent contestants have included – a ‘little person’ who performs as ‘Baby GaGa’ (impersonating Lady Ga-ga’), a 40-plus year old female body-builder, a train driver who dabbles as an artist, an embalmer (a homosexual man who cried at least three times during the dinners) and a wannabe Las Vegas cabaret performer whose actual job was performing tricks on horseback. There are also ‘normal’ types – real estate agents, butchers, corporate high flyers, teachers etc. So – the mix of people is – to say the least – ecclectic. Needless to say, none are professional chefs. However, they all seem to think they could be professional chefs. Cue the kitchen disasters. From burning biscuits and pork roasts, to small kitchen fires, and missing ingredients – a lot goes wrong. The constestants give frank (sometimes brutal) assessments of each other’s food, which ranges from restaurant quality (think slow roasted duck confit with a red wine vinaigrette, radicchio and rocket) to simple homestyle fair (steak and three veg). The dinner party is also supposed to include some form of entertainment, which so far, has ranged from a female bodybuilding ‘pose-off” to a tango demonstration, gold coast metre maids, backyard ‘golf’ and medieval sword fighting (a particularly hilarious episode where the contestant’s husband actually suffered quite an injury when ‘play-jousting’ with his step-son’). Add to that, a witty narration by James Valentine – and you have all the ingredients for a great little snack size (about 40 minutes per episode) show. Sure, there’s the odd argument between contestants. But rarely is it serious or mean-spirited. And it’s yet to come to blows. What I love is the fact that you can bring five complete strangers together, fuel them with a little alcohol and (mostly) good food – and differences in age, wealth, intellect and sexuality, seem to melt away – and these perfect strangers just get on with having a great time.

  

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