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Televisionary's Newest Culinary TV Obsession: BBC America's Come Dine With Me

It's rare that I encounter a new reality television series that is so fantastic and which doesn't take itself seriously to the point of being almost absurd that I instantly fall head over heels in love with it.

Yet that's just what happened with BBC America's culinary competition series Come Dine With Me, which launches next week. (A US version is in the works as well for 2011.) Any resistance I had melted away within seconds as I found myself engrossed in this hysterical and winsome series, which originally aired on Channel 4 in the UK.

It's hard to capture the magic of Come Dine With Me if you haven't seen it for yourself. The basic premise is this: four strangers come together for four nights of dinner parties at one another's homes, with each of them playing host on a particular night. These aren't professional chefs, but rather amateur home cooks who pride themselves on being refined hosts and hostesses and who are each eager to walk away not only with the bragging rights but also the cash prize that awaits the winner.

They'll pour wine, offer canapes, and devise a three-course menu that they'll serve their guests--assembled from a collection of eccentrics, ego-trippers, and gourmets, each of whom views themselves as the end-all-be-all in fine home dining--and attempt to negotiate the dangerous battlefield of dinner party conversation. The winner will be determined by the total highest score as the guests offer numbered ratings (from 1-10) for the evening. Look for frayed nerves, disastrous desserts, and bruised feelings before the week is out.

While the premise alone could be fun (imagine being a fly on the wall at a series of dinner parties attended by absolute strangers), but the true joy of watching Come Dine With Me comes from the wink, wink, nudge, nudge narration provided by veteran Dave Lamb, who not only fills in the gaps in exposition but also manages to say just what we're thinking at home.

It's Lamb--who also narrated British reality series How Clean Is Your House?-- who makes Come Dine With Me a delicious repast from start to finish, poking fun at the contestants and their quirks and deflating their rapidly ballooning egos by issuing a series of skewering comments.

Yes, this is a culinary series with bite and once you're hooked, it's impossible not to come back for a second helping. I hungrily devoured the five episodes that BBC America sent me for review and I'm already ravenous for more. (Luckily, there are, I believe, 22 episodes on tap for this season.)

Given the fact that I'm currently on the outs with Bravo's own culinary competition series, Top Chef, I can't help but notice that Come Dine With Me airs in the same timeslot as the granddaddy of cooking shows. If you're looking for a culinary competition series with a different flavor, I'd advise you to set your TiVos now for Come Dine With Me, which either makes the perfect appetizer for Top Chef or a sinfully delicious dessert. Just make sure you get yourself a taste.

Come Dine With Me Episode One: Bath

Come Dine With Me Episode Two: Swindon

Come Dine With Me launches Wednesday evening at 9 pm ET/PT on BBC America.


Cassie said…
I saw this in England and at first thought it was kind of silly but quickly became addicted. It is, actually, pretty silly but in a fun and entertaining way. As you said, it doesn't take itself too seriously which is a problem with most reality shows these days. It's just fun and frothy and full of eccentric characters. Just a like a good dinner party should be!
Unknown said…
I cant wait for the Us version.

I hope they stick to the same format.

Also, I hope contestants are regular home cooks rather than American Idol audition rejects/ tv wannabes.
Unknown said…
Also US Tv producers always claim that American audiences have big problems with regional accents- I wonder how the many and varied British regional accents are understood?

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