“Reality” TV: Come Dine with Me

Come Dine with Me is a satirical show where three couples cook and host a dinner party. The couples rate each other, and the highest scoring couple wins £1000 cash.

Come Dine with Me is not a technical show like MasterChef or British Bake Off.  People watch it for the interpersonal drama, the kitchen catastrophes, a snoop around people’s homes and the witty commentator, Dave Lamb.

I’ve always judged contestants on television really harshly.  I really thought a film crew would just stand back and just let the cameras roll. I couldn’t have been more wrong . . .


How can anyone get the food so bad??  It’s a cooking show!

I thought this when I watched the show, but I didn’t know the full story. While you are cooking, the camera guy needs you to stand 3/4 of your body awkwardly to the camera, stirring with your non-dominate hand, avoiding looking into the camera otherwise you have to start the scene all over again.

I put the garlic in the pan, but now he needs a wide angled shot, so he asks me to do it again, but as I put it in, I create static on my microphone, so we are now doing it a third time. Great. Now the food has triple the garlic it called for.  Truthfully, I don’t actually know how much garlic is supposed to be in there. I was using my laptop for the recipe, but the screen light was throwing off the white balance, so the camera guy turned it off.

Quick!  We have to be on location for our opening interview, so stop stirring, change clothes, mike up, jump in the van, and leave the PA to monitor the food in the oven. Film off location where we have been sweating profusely, drive back, change clothes, mike back up, and pick up where we left off.

Did we put the garlic in yet?

Perhaps the funniest thing to navigate is husband James and I cooking together. Neither of us thought this one through. What tasks would he do? He makes the dessert and does a really good job of it, but the rest? How do we work together in a crowded space with a producer and a camera man 2 inches from our face sans recipe, all the while trying to make shredding chicken interesting? It isn’t easy, but we had fun.

I used to think- If I had to make one meal for TV, I would make it absolutely precise. Spending countless evenings perfecting every single step. In reality, James and I had just over a week to prepare-and it wasn’t spent cooking!

We had to-

  1. Search for and buy 7 outfits (each) that fit a strict criteria
  2. Arrange childcare for 3 kids for 3 days- and pack for them
  3. Deep clean the house
  4. Make 4 hair appointments for me and 1 for James
  5. Install new stair carpeting for the famous walk down the stairs shot
  6. Borrow a larger kitchen table (thank you neighbours!)
  7. Fold napkins
  8. Find centrepieces- not too high or too big
  9. Buy and wrap hostess gifts
  10. Source ingredients
  11. Locate copyright releases for all the artwork in the house (grrrrr . . . )
  12. Host production crew to finalise details
  13. Plant flowers

— and I was still waking up in the middle of the night with the baby.

Since doing the show, I’m much less critical of people on TV. Actually, I’m much less critical of people in general. Things aren’t always as they appear, and I never know the full story.

Seventeen hours of filming on our night to host gave the producer, in his words, “plenty of material.” I’m still laughing every time I think of this evening.  I just hope the show captures the things I found hilarious and the excellent vibe of the night. I’ve always said I love to laugh at myself, but this will definitely test that.

comedinewithme-12.jpg

James with the guys on our screen test. After two written applications and a phone interview, this stage of casting creates a 2 minute film to ‘pitch’ us as contestants. We answered all sorts of questions for an hour. My favourite was “How would you react if you dined with a TOWIE?” I thought that was a political party-lol!

The show makes it look so seamless, but in reality, there are hours in between each of the three courses- recording interviews, setting up lighting, cooking, and lots of other technical things (including at least 200 smoke breaks for the crew!) I’ll forgive people for their meals being cold. James and I both didn’t want to touch our dessert at 2 am when it was finally being served, although the next day, I polished off every bite that was left!

On our night to host, we had a blast, but I remember sitting there thinking, “I just can’t wait to go home.” It was about ten minutes later when I realised, “Oh my gosh. This is our home.”

So the meals are cold, but why are the people? Why do tensions flare on these shows?  

Check back here Friday

Set the box to record our episode!

couples-come-dine-with-me

 

 

 

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