The concept is simple: Five (four in primetime) contestants take turns hosting a dinner party at their houses (you don't have to cook the food; but it's generally the done thing). The four/three other contestants mark it secretly on a scale of 1 of 10. The contestant with the highest score wins £1,000. note
As with an omelette, great things can come out of a simple idea. You get arguments, bad food ideas and all the eccentricities of this world. Season with a fine dressing of snark from narrator Dave Lamb, and you have a superb meal for four.
This show contains examples of:
- 100% Completion: Never happened, it's rare for the hosts to get anything higher than 30, the highest score was Ian Cook from Liverpool who received 39, the only negative was that he served water in plastic bottles instead of glass.
- Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Well there's plenty of booze on some nights so of course, it's going to happen.
- Asian Rudeness: Philippina sales manager Sylvain in the Aberdeen week came across as abrupt, ambitious, peppery and having no truck with idiots.
- Berserk Button: Any part of a meal being shop-bought is a common one, and winning after having done this is almost unheard of.
- Big Breast Pride: Tula in Swansea, who contrived to wear a low-cut top every night and even when she was prepping the food in her own kitchen.
- Body Sushi: Featured in one episode.
- The Bully: It comes off on some guests, sometimes it's editing, other-times it's can be real:
- Examples: a woman put a paper bag on a guy's head because he was 'ugly', when she received Death Threats she tried to apologise saying that it was her 'Northern' sense of humour.
- One guy made the news after he made one guest cry. She was a strict Vegetarian and he purposely served her a Pasta Bake with Canned Soup and Non-Vegetarian Parmesan and Roast Potatoes in Goose Fat. He received a 1 from her unsurprisingly but he did it as a "joke". note
- Cheaters Never Prosper: The Show was made for this Trope, in the 2nd series a woman gave low scores in order to win, caught out she was forced to re-score her competitors or leave the show, she did and was Runner Up instead. There was another time where the winner was forced to admit on the Saturday that he hid the fact he was a Classically Trained Chef and the guests re-scored him for his deception.
- Cordon Bleugh Chef: The more ambitious and deluded contestants. One woman served Creme Brulee with Cream Cheese, which went down as a good as a Chocolate Fireguard, one man was into fitness and served Chicken and Rice for all three courses, the desert being Tavuk (Turkish Rice Pudding with Shredded Chicken) he was willing to eat it, but two of the guests left the table.note
- Crossover: Come Dine with the Dragons, a 2010 Children in Need Special, featuring Peter Jones, Theo Paphitis and Duncan Bannatyne as cooks, and Deborah Meaden as an extra judge. Notable in that each Dragon cooked one part of a three course meal, that was all eaten in one night, rather than each one hosting a separate dinner party.
- Deadpan Snarker: Narrator Dave Lamb. Though much less deadpan (and much more snarky) as time goes on.
- And he never narrates the celebrity versions where the contestants have more influence and a greater say over the production...
- Digging Yourself Deeper: During one week the one woman kept saying the wrong thing to one guest saying things about her weight to the point on night 4, she was left alone during the point when the other guests look around the host's house, thankfully the host got her something to do while she finished the Starter.
- Dinner and a Show: The contestants get the dinner. We get the show. And not so much in the current series - the idea seems to have dropped out - is that the host provides some sort of entertainment to their guests in between courses.
- The Ditz: A week in Bristol introduced Harriet, who came over as a ditzy Dumb Blonde, slow on the uptake, utterly unfamiliar with French cooking terms and full of malapropisms... it is revealed she is an emergency ambulance paramedic. On this showing, you recall Casualty is filmed in Bristol, and given the death rate at Holby Hospital, you wonder...
- Exiled to the Couch: In one episode one guest was so tired that, she napped on the couch until the next course. A more purposed example on the final night, one guest went stroppy because they were annoyed everybody talked about the food, so the host told her to cool down on the couch while they enjoyed the night.
- Feminine Women Can Cook: Regularly subverted with female contestants who pay more attention to their clothes, hair and makeup than they do to their cooking, possibly proving that this one is not Truth in Television.
- Fish out of Water: Sometimes the challengers are from different classes, it's funny to see classy people slumming it. But in the one Celebrity Speical, there was Four Northerners and One Socialite, the camera shows her displease with the others, after night 2 she quit the show and her replacement was somebody more suited to the group.
- French Jerk: A Bristol week had an expatriate Frenchwoman called Anne, who took the French Jerk persona way past eleven. She refused to drink a host's wine, turning it down in a most haughty manner as unworthy of her. Then scoffed at a co-guest's occupation of soft-furnishing salesman, considering it unbearingly boring, along with an obligatory snigger of derision.
- Flanderization: Watch an early episode and you could be forgiven for thinking there was a different narrator. Dave Lamb's voiceover was originally restrained and unobtrusive but began to take centre stage as it got more snide and sarcastic.
- Follow the Leader: Quite a few narrators of game shows/reality shows since Come Dine With Me have cribbed off Dave Lamb's snarky delivery.
- Foreign Queasine: An American contestant confessed the biggest ordeal to him would be having to consume the British idea of good dinner party cooking for four nights straight. An Italian contestant said the same concerning the British idea of what Italian food should look and taste like. And of course there was Frenchwoman Anne.
- Four Point Scale: It's rare to see a guest give a score lower than six.
- Going Commando: An American contestant, a hippie-inclined Granola Girl, performed a gymnastic manouvre whilst wearing a very short skirt. The resultant Wardrobe Malfunction exposed the fact, for perhaps less than a second, that she did not favour the wearing of knickers. The episode in which this happened was up on the website and being regularly re-screened on TV for a good four years before anybody noticed; it has been severely edited since for rebroadcast, but the original is no doubt preserved in all its brief blurry glory somewhere in the murky recesses of the Web.
- Grande Dame: There is one every series a older woman, who is classy, either she does well or annoys the hell of the others.
- HeelFace Turn: The first host will be serve well great host and all that follows, then once the pretense is gone they become the guest from hell. Perfect Example, was a guy who was delightful on his night, night two he asked a mature student if he's ever going to get a job? Night three, there was a delay in the serving of the main course, he goes off on one that everybody is glad that he loses.
- History Repeats: A rare real-life example, in the one Kent series, a Brutally Honest Hairdresser, flatly insulted the guests every night (apart from his), he didn't win and now every time his series airs he gets Death Threats to the point he pleaded with Channel Four to stop the reruns. What did he expect to happen?
- Hypocritical Humor: The best example was a Grande Dame who was a wine snob, who spent the previous nights complaining about the quality of the wines, however the one host gave her Boxed Wine when he refilled her and she drank it without thinking about it.
- Insufferable Imbecile: insurance salesman Ross on the Swansea show, who managed to alienate all the other contestants and to have stand-up shouting rows across the dinner table with two of them - on two successive nights - and who completely forgot, or didn't seem to care, that his disparaging comments on what it was like to be an Englishman living in Wales would be witnessed by everyone - including the Welsh workmates who would be watching when the show was screened.
- Insult to Rocks: A staple of Dave Lamb's narration.
- It's All About Me: Sometimes the contestants are completely attention seeking to the point they try to take charge of the other people's dinner parties.
- Example: There was a man on the York week who was a confidence builder, he was great his night but he annoyed everyone on the other people's night.
- Jewish Mother: Matt, from Manchester, who has hardly cooked before as his mum has always done this, decides the only person who can help in a time of crisis is his mother. She takes over and a meal of "Mum's chicken soup" followed by boiled beef brisket emerges.
- Loophole Abuse: One woman decided that she didn't want to cook, so she just ordered food in instead. Ain't No Rule that says you have to cook the food yourself.
- Manipulative Editing: Does this ZCE need an explanation? This is a reality show based on conflict and social embarrassment. Quite literally - People Sit on Chairs.
- Men Can't Keep House: Occasionally, one of the female contestants will be genuinely surprised a male competitor can cook — even in a cooking competition and especially if he's a student.
- Mood Whiplash: Sometimes this show which can be funny can have the odd moment that ends the humour while sometimes it can be the Sore Loser problem (see below) it can also be for other reasons:
- In an example of goodwill one winner gave another contestant half of the money, he had revealed that he wanted the money help his sister pay her mortgage she had been unable to work due to cancer treatment. Then the visional fades a picture of the guy appears with text revealing that he died of cancer before the episode aired.
- Multi-National Shows: Britain, Ireland, Australia...
- Never My Fault: When people are dicks, they don't like to be confronted about it. There is a example however when a Grande Dame, did the last night, there had been tension between two of the guests and after one walked out, our host then said in the kitchen, the night was going well. Even Dave Lamb was shocked (rare for him) it was a shame she didn't stop it or she might have scored higher.
- Neat Freak: Looking round people's houses there can be signs of cleanliness. During one of the earlier shows there was one hostess who might have OCD, before serving each meal she cleaned up every dish or counter-space that she had used, leaving the guests wondering what was causing the delay.
- Nipple and Dimed: The Czech version of the show, Prostrenonote caused controversy and lots of complaints to the TV company when contestant Zaneta Stastna turned an accidental Wardrobe Malfunction into a full-blown flashing of her breasts; Moral Guardians in the Czech Republic were even more outraged when another female contestant reached across the table and tweaked her nipples.
- The Other Darrin: In case somebody has to leave for any reason, there is a spare guest if this happens the replacement is given the final night and everyone shifts up one, there is a couple of times it happened due to sickness, one time the replacement had to eat the previous contestant's meal at home and score him despite not knowing the person.
- In a recent Week the unheard-of happened the host was removed during his own night and was disqualified. This left viewers wondering what the man did, during the night he had become slightly defensive over a boyband. The winner alleged that he was drunk and threatening having been drinking all day.
- Product Displacement; The British version was for a long time sponsored by wine company Echo Falls who used a catchy song, Camera Obscura's French Navy, as backing music to the "sponsored by" segments at the start and finish and book-ending commercial breaks. When the show changed sponsor, people contacted the makers to ask why they'd dropped the theme tune: it simply stuck in viewers' heads as the theme music, despite the fact the official theme tune, a low-key piece played on ominous pizzicato strings, was still there at start and end of the show.
- Ridiculous Procrastinator: Lee Pritchard was the king of this, he ended up trying to cook everything when the guests arrived and ended up forgetting some of the Starters, he threw out one of his Creme Brulee and as a last attempt gave the guests the integrants for the missing starter, but he still felt he deserved a 10 for "effort" and he received the lowest score in the shows history to date 7 and that was "kind".
- Sleepyhead: Dawn was one the most beloved contestants of the show, she had to miss the desert on the third night due to her attempt to stay awake, then on her night she fell asleep once again and the other guests cooked the main and plated the desert, she did awaken but clearly had to be scored low.
- Small Name, Big Ego: A majority of the contestants.
- Sore Loser: In an infamous episode, a contestant named Peter was angry with a contestant named Jane in part due to his constant Compliment Fishing that backfired when he asked what they honestly thought of him and she responded that she found him pompus. This escalated into Peter calling her a "fat troll" and dismissing the other two contestants as unimportant and only "along for the ride". He then was asked to read out the winner of the competition and found out, to his dismay, that Jane had won. Instead of taking the loss with dignity he instead launched into a tirade and threw the camera crew out of his house.Peter: You won, Jane. Enjoy the money. I hope it makes you very happy.
Jane: Oh my God!
Peter: Dear Lord. What a sad little life, Jane. You ruined my night, completely, so you could have the money. But I hope you now spend it on getting some lessons in grace and decorum, because you have all the grace of a reversing dump-truck without any tyres on.
[contestants laugh nervously]
Contestant Charlotte: [quietly] I don't get it.
Peter: Well you wouldn't, let's be honest, there's nobody in there, love. [Aside Glance] So Jane, take your money and get off my property.
Dave Lamb: [voiceover] ...doggy bag, anyone?
- A similar outburst took place when contestant Heather (in Basingstoke) was placed fourth after clashing with another contestant, Zaira.Heather: [opens scroll] [Aside Glance] I don't believe this. I really don't. You put me fourth? No, seriously, I think you all have, really, put me...obviously, given me a low score. And I'm...really sad about that. You've really...peeved me off, actually...
Contestant Toby: [laughing awkwardly] Well someone's got to come fourth, haven't they?
Heather: No, because! My food was better than any of yours. Seriously? I am so shocked that you gave me what you did. My presentation was amazing! And...far better than any of yours! And...and I came fourth?! Do you know what -
Toby: What - what a way to end a week!
Heather: No, I'm sorry! I'm so upset with all you! I've been so honest about you! [getting in Zaira's face] I could've given you a zero because yours was sh[BEEP], alright?! [sobbing] Do you know what?! I don't deserve fourth! I'm - sorry, I'm going to bed. Forget it. I'm so upset! That is so sad!
Toby: I...I don't know what to say to that.
- A similar outburst took place when contestant Heather (in Basingstoke) was placed fourth after clashing with another contestant, Zaira.
- And then, in a week where there were three women and two men. Unfortunately for one of the two men, the three women all appeared to fall for the charms of the other male contestant, flirting, giggling, preening and competing for his attentions. Over three nights this went Up to Eleven and the hapless second man was completely ignored and treated like part of the furniture. This became progressively uneasier to watch and reached a crescendo of embarrassment when the disregarded party, on his own night to host, was still treated, at best, as if he was the waiter bringing food to the table. In his own home, by his own guests. He put up with this stoically - until he exploded and delivered a monumental The Reason You Suck tirade to the others. Even though you could see his point, and wondered if the show's producers had deliberately set him up as a Chew Toy, it was still squirmingly embarrassing to watch.
- Spin-Off: There are several countries that also have their own versions of the show. Channel Four has sometimes aired the South African version and the Aussie version. There is also Couples Come Dine With Me which had three couples doing the same. Four also created Come Dine With Me: Champion of Champions which is brought in past winners to battle, it has Dave Lamb appearing as Host instead.
- In 2008 ITV created House Guest, which is a carbon copy of this show but one of the guests also stayed the night; it lasted a year. In 2010 ITV also created another ripoff in all but name, called May the Best House Win which in place of a dinner the contestants looked around each others homes. It was mildly successful lasting two years but how far can you go with that concept.
- In 2010 Channel Four created Four In A Bed. This show is about Bed and Breakfast owners each spending a night at each others places over the course of a week, reviewing it, and then scoring each other in terms of how much money they feel their room was worth. The viewer might think Come Dine is bitchy; but for a plaque, the competition here can get cut-throat. note