Voulez-vous diner avec moi ce soir?

If you’re in the UK or Ireland, then there’s a fair chance you’ve been exposed at some point to the phenomnomnom that is Come Dine With Me. If, however, you live in France and have no access to UK channels, then you have no idea it is actually supposed to be fun to watch.

Love it or loathe it, the essence of CDWM (as it is often abbreviated on Twitter) is that people meet, personalities clash or gel, cooking catastrophes occur, and in the background, Dave Lamb makes delightfully sarcastic remarks about all of it. And I find it an amusing way to spend a sick day off, watching it back to back on More Four. It’s that or Time Team anyway.

Unfortunately, as is often the case, when French TV gets hold of a British concept, they manage to take it, suck every atom* of fun out of it and serve it up luke warm with the sauce rapidly congealing on a cold plate. I’m giving it a 3.

Basically, the French and the British take the same approach to CDWM as they do towards food. For the Brits, it’s all about the experience. Yes the food has to be good, but it’s more about having a generally enjoyable evening with other people. For the French, anything short of Michelin-starred cuisine is sneered upon, every detail is prodded and poked and rated with the strictest rigour.

CDWM in France is called “Un diner presque parfait” – an almost perfect dinner. And that’s what it has to be. The guests aren’t there to enjoy themselves, to meet new people or to enjoy a challenge. They are there to compete. It’s not even about the cash, it’s about providing a restaurant-level meal for 4 non-paying strangers and rubbing their faces in how good you are.

The participants put tons of effort and cash into it and the rules are strict, they must have a theme to their evening and provide some form of entertainment. They are rated on the food, the decoration of the table and the entertainment. And they are not there to be nice to each other when it comes to scoring.

As for the commentary, there are occasional attempts at humour, but they’re the usual consensual “let’s not say anything too mean” kind you find on any French TV show. Bland, tepid, bleh.

Similarly, in the French equivalent of Top Gear where the presenter drives cars at a reasonable speed on country roads and concludes that all the cars he tries are not bad. I’m actually not making that up.

Dear France, please lighten up or stop stealing fun things and turning them into meh.

Thanks.

*Note to self: write an article about the atom of Fun and its place in the periodic table.

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