Come Dine With Me is strangely compelling because the guests are so compellingly strange, says Mark Lewis
When you ask a bisexual man with a 550 piece Barbie collection to explain the difference between having sex with a woman and a man, you don’t necessarily expect a solemn response. But when Brian was told the main difference was the absence of a cock, he contrived to be offended anyway.
“Lee did not conduct himself with dignity tonight,” he said, before going off to plan a dinner party which included a dessert of bananas, tinned tangerine and whipped cream, in a room with a framed picture of Margaret Thatcher on the wall.
It was the first in the latest series of Come Dine With Me (Wednesday, Channel 4, 8pm) and a microcosm of the whole concept: weirdoes trying to outdo each other in the classnessness of their dinnertime.
It is one of Channel 4’s format documentaries. But where - especially in the early series’ - Wife Swap gave us drama and personal realisations of Shakespearean pathos, Come Dine With Me offers nothing deeper than a dented roasting tin.
It’s cheaper than a 12 pack of own brand, low alcohol lager from Lidl, but it’s still weirdly compelling in a Victorian voyeuristic kind of way. Four unusuals spend consecutive nights hosting dinner parties for each other for a prize of £1,000.
This week it was Brian, the local conservative councillor wannabe with a face like Eamonn Holmes and a picture of Maggie Thatcher in his living room; Lee, the drunk bisexual with a sinister collection of Barbie dolls; a third woman too non-descript to even remember her name; and Brenda, the retard.
I’m not a fan of freak shows per se. But Brenda belonged in a cage. She was a gobby, boxing Geordie with much to say and little to impart. She insisted on putting litres of Tabasco sauce on all of her meals, then complained to Brian that his food left her in the toilet all night. She wouldn’t eat red meat because “it rots and purifies in the gut.”
She meant putrifies. Which is rather what’s been happening to Graham Norton since his big money move to the BBC. He was poached from Channel 4 because of his success as a chat show host who gets his researches to scan the internet for features to mildly embarrass his guests while he says oooooooooh to the audience.
The BBC scratched around for a format to match his talents, before coming to the conclusion three years later that he was best suited as a chat show host who gets his researches to scan the internet for features to mildly embarrass his guests while he says oooooooooh to the audience.
The first in this series of The Graham Norton Show (BBC2, 9pm) featured a not terribly funny Kevin Bacon and a Tony Curtis, funny only because of the plastic surgery.
It’s not to everyone’s taste but at least it’s something.