Is it just me, or has the Channel Four 'Come Dine With Me' show gone down the pan?
Some years ago, I admit, I watched the occasional episode. Entertaining moments arose from time to time. An appealing new recipe to try, perhaps. Someone who had something remotely interesting to say.
The sarcastic commentary, of course, was always the essence of the show's success.
But things have changed, and not for the better. The show is now officially Car Crash T.V. Surprisingly, the Producer - Cliff Triffling - was prepared to take my call and answer a few questions.
Here's the deal with the revised format of 'Come Dine'. In addition to the quintessential requirement - Absolutely No Knowledge Whatsoever About Cooking, Baking Or Presenting Food - prospective competitors need to demonstrate at least four of the following:
• Appallingly poor taste in home furnishings
• Severe anger management issues
• A tendency to dress like a slapper
• An inability to speak coherently
• Diagnosed personality disorder
• Obvious gaps in cognitive functioning
• Disgusting table manners
• A selection of sex toys and disturbing photographs in the bedroom
Favoured candidates display most of these attributes, Triffling informs me. The creative challenge is to group together four socially and psychologically inadequate individuals.
"Get the mix right," says Triffling, "and you're cruising. Stand back and watch it all kick off."
Triffling describes a number of "classic" episodes which have left him "quite literally rolling on the studio floor, laughing until my head hurt."
His favourite show was recorded in Barnsley sometime in the autumn of 2012. Not one of the four airheads managed to produce anything edible, yet they all claimed to be accomplished cooks.
"On the final night at Tiffany's place," recalls Triffling, "the four of them ended up in a rugby scrum on the kitchen floor fighting for the cash. Most of the crockery got thrown across the room.
Barry broke a chair over Kyle's head. It was ugly. I said keep the cameras rolling, for God's sake!
After a good ten minutes of brawling, the place was trashed. Tiffany opened the back door and yelled: 'Piss off the lot of you!' It's T.V. gold, let's be honest. You can see why we're sticking with the new format."
I could see Triffling's point. The trick is not to tune in expecting to enhance your cooking skills. If you can mentally reconstruct 'Come Dine' as a fusion of Corrie, Eastenders and Loose Women, you're probably going to love it.