The Guardian’s “not Nancy Banks Smith” TV reviewer Sam Wallaston is a reliable sort of guy. I watched last night’s Come Dine With Me and was agog. “This is the best thing I’ve seen on Channel 4 in a long time” I exclaimed while watching between my fingers. Sure enough Wallaston’s review: “the worst programme on television”. He didn’t like it. And that’s why I read his reviews. “Never knowingly correct” goes his strapline. (Don’t get me started on his “ha ha geeks eh, this IS complicated and silly” he did the other day on Battlestar Galactica.)

Anyway… COME DINE WITH ME. Last night’s was more than awesome. This show has grown — a day-time staple, it’s gathered celebrity editions, and now it comes in a new format. No longer a short show every day of the week covering 5 people — they now compress 4 people in to a one hour show. It’s a sensation. Well for something that’s come from day-time. (It even has a rip off version on the beeb hosted by Simon Rimmer who seems to be trying to be on telly every day of the week for an entire year.)

But then having established a regular format, with often witty and interesting people who occasionally come to verbal blows, it goes HAYWIRE. Remember that first edition of Wife Swap with the foul mouthed racist woman — it was well train wreck. This was much the same but written by Mike Leigh.

The point of the show, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is to impress strangeres with your culinary skill and hosting ability. Remember that.

We’re in Newcastle. (oh the shame of it all). And we have (mis)matched up a pompous Tory with aspirations to become an MP, a harpy, an oversize child and a quiet studious looking woman. Just guess who won? Go on. Run with that prejudice.

The Tory boy is Brian Moore. No not that one. This one reminded me of a less suave David Van Day. Throw away lines that were painful. Dinner-party question: “If you had a thousand pounds to spend, what would you get?” “Well I do have a thousand pounds…”.

For some reason Brian is making a point about cheap super markets and bought everything from Netto – intending to wow everyone with the sumptious 3 course meal and then reveal his secret. But he can’t keep his powder dry and blurts it out before the dessert. Which is a shame as the dessert is a killer – half bananas and tinned mandarin segments on a plate. Oh with squirty cream on it. “Check the website for the recipe” says the narrator (one of the ‘writers’ in Moving Wallpaper).

Brian does not get on with Brenda. Brenda has already explained, over the first meal of the week, that red-meat ‘isn’t digested it just rots inside you’. She later reveals that Brian’s meal has made her sick. A meal that she was augmenting with enormous quantities of Tabasco. Oh and extra fried chillies made for her on request. And she continues to mention this while they are eating another meal.

Brenda didn’t really like anything, managed to make faces at all the food presented to her, yet actually produced… well a very ordinary meal. The most uncomfortable meal I have ever seen on reality television. No on television full stop. Scripted drama has nothing on it. I might have to rewatch it to transcribe some of the exchanges. The studious lady and the overgrown child shrink into the background — ‘let it be over soon’ all over their faces. “Phenomenal” as Brian says. Repeatedly.

The drunk scoring and bitching in the cab on the way back from the dinner was just unbalanced. I actually had to stop watching at one point, from the pain.

Perhaps you have to have seen other editions to see how unusual and agonizing it all was. Nobody here seemed out to make any effort — like an extra filler episode with people pulled off the street at the last minute. These people had not thought “I have a killer signature dish and my parties are legendary, i should go on that telly show! Now where’s the application form”

The winner was the studious lady (Rebecca).