Did we like it?
It has exorcised the most vulgar contrivances of Come Dine With Me and replaced them with a cheap substitute of an overnight stay for one guest. But the removal of much of the sneering and guileless one-upmanship of Come Dine… may have neutered its ballsy bitchiness but it’s made House Guest far more watchable.
What was good about it?
• Of the five ‘house guests’ – Rachel, Ian, Linda, Stevie and Hannah – three of them appear to be quite nice folk (an astonishingly high proportion on a reality show), with Ian’s affability being the most surprising as property developers often have a correlation to human decency akin to Nazis. Hannah seemed a little fussy, but Linda was the inevitable smog of odiousness lurking in the foreground.
• And we suppose that despite being an arch-harridan, in the House Guest desert of non-conflict an oasis of unpleasantness was tolerable, rather than the Biblical Flood of spite that usually inundates similar shows. We found ourselves getting lazily caught up in her strategy of ensuring that Rachel’s soiree didn’t outscore the 22 points she received the previous night.
• She would find pernickety fault with every detail of Rachel’s tasty-looking meal battering her fellow guests into an overall score of six for food. But her corroding influence could be best observed on the nervous Stevie who had said that Rachel and Kendra had been “the perfect hosts” but after five minutes of Linda’s bleating he only gave them six out of ten, contributing to that being the overall score for guests.
• Ian’s incredulous putdown to Linda’s importunities to score Rachel very low after she moaned about the smoking fire that nobody else noticed, but which Linda believed could be lethal. Ian quipped: “People have been living with log fires for 500 years and people haven’t been dying of them.”
• Host Rachel actually seemed like a real dinner party host rather than a perma-grinning facsimile, she cheerfully made the meal with her friend Kendra and made an effort to make the evening entertaining ostensibly to please her guests rather than to claim whatever meagre prize was on offer.
• And when meals were served rather than the esoteric descriptions of the food delivered with the same snooty dilettantish scorn as in Come Dine… and umpteen other food shows, the meal was simply mentioned to inform the viewers and then the guests would pass a few comments at the time and later on when scoring.
What was bad about it?
• The final third of the score is based on a guest’s view of the overnight facilities. Unfortunately for Rachel, Linda drew the short straw. Her main concern was navigating the narrow spiral staircase should she need to “spend a penny”, but by this point you were saturated by her snide efforts to besmirch the more down-to-earth Rachel and she simply became an amorphous reality show nattering vexation.
• We don’t think that Linda being the guest particularly made the overnight stay section any better or any worse – it’s a dud, but does help the show draw attention away from irrelevances that thrive like cockroaches in the greasy sweatshop of Michael Grade’s sanctimonious brain which blight so many other reality shows to the point of photophobic synthesis.
• To add cultural flavour to Rachel’s Greek meal, the guests assembled outside for some plate smashing. However, because of safety regulations everyone had to wear safety goggles and a hard hat and lamely toss the plates on to a plastic mat on the ground, it was like watching the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll relocated to the sort of gently sloping hill that Coldplay would write a bland, inoffensive song about.