RDF West for BBC Two, 15 February 2010 -
O Come Dine with Me, what hath thou wrought? The latest home entertaining show to clamber aboard the bandwagon sees two families / groups of friends (a designated chef and two helpers) compete to make the most money by serving up a three-course meal in their own home. They each get a budget of up to £200 to serve ten diners, who pay whatever they think the meal (and the experience) was worth, and whoever makes the most profit is the winner.
The concept, and to a large extent the execution, is quite similar to Virgin One's Restaurant in Our Living Room, which beat it to the screen, but it does have a distinct personality of its own - specifically, the personality of Nadia Sawalha. With that voice, that laugh and that eternally sunny disposition, she ought to be insufferable, yet she somehow gets away with it, a bit like Tim Wonnacott on Bargain Hunt (another show this one draws upon). Were you to examine a transcript of Instant Restaurant next to one from its Virgin rival - or from Come Dine with Me - you probably wouldn't notice much difference, but it's all in the delivery. Nadia's just too darned nice to really stick the knife in, and the result is that we feel we're laughing more with the contestants than at them.
Don't get us wrong, this show is nothing special, and we've got nothing against the sneerier examples of the genre (you posts yer application and you takes yer choice) but it's nice to know there's room in the schedules for a more warmhearted programme like this as well.