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:
- Berserk Button: Any part of a meal being shop-bought is a common one, and winning after having done this is almost unheard of.
- Body Sushi: Featured in one episode.
- Cordon Bleugh Chef: The more ambitious and deluded contestants.
- 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...
- 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 perovides some sort of entertainment to their guests in between courses.
- 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.
- 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.
- Four Point Scale: It's rare to see a guest give a score lower than six.
- Insult to Rocks: A staple of Dave Lamb's narration.
- While Dave narrates both the British and Irish versions, he is conspicuously absent from celebrity specials. One wonders why...
- 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.
- Multi-National Shows: Britain, Ireland, Australia...
- Product Displacement; The British version was for a long time sponsored by wine company Echo Falls who used an Ear Worm 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.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Practically all 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 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.
- 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.
- A similar outburst took place when contestant Heather was placed fourth after clashing with another contestant, Zaira.