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Thursday, February 22, 2024

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10 and a Half Rules for TV Dinners

1. Your Viewing Material (henceforth abbreviated to VM) cannot be a movie. You physically cannot pay enough attention when you are eating a proper meal ( and possibly dessert ) andtake your eyes of the screen every few seconds to ensure that you are not eating your hand, stabbing yourself in the face with a fork and at least some of your food is making it into your mouth and not down your top.
The ideal combination?
2. Duration: the VM should last between 30 and 60 minutes. Too short and you might find yourself halfway through your dinner having to switch over to Sky News. Too long and it runs into Movie territory (see Rule 1) The occasional comfort break is ok, but too many interruptions and even the enjoyment of a mockbuster like Mega Python Vs Gatoroidwould suffer.
3. The VM should be fiction – i.e. no documentaries, talent shows, new bulletins, comedy shows, or Jeff Randall Live grilling a CeO about the economy. You want to be transported away into an imaginary world to enhance your eating experience, not to give yourself digestive problems. The exception to this is explained in rule 4.

4.(a) For the purpose of eating we will consider some reality TV as fiction: there is, after all, little reality in reality TV, as Hugh Hefner once tweeted.  Any single episode of Kendra! or Keeping Up With The Kardashians is so scripted that, in comparison, Holby City seems improvised in the style of Stanislavski’s method system.

Clearly a Documentary

4.(b) There is also another obvious exception to Rule 3 – i.e. watching Man vs Food whilst eating is not only perfectly acceptable, but actively encouraged.

5. It helps if food is heavily featured in the VM: The Sopranos is excellent in this respect, with the characters pretty much constantly eating, swapping Pyrex dishes of baked pasta, idly opening the fridge, ordering pizza, cooking and then eating some more. When they are not whacking someone, of course.

Clearly a child who enjoys Mobland violence

6. Don’t pick anything with a particularly complex plot. Remember ,you will have to look down at your plate at least occasionally and the sound of your own mandibles chewing will inevitably distract you from what could be a vital narrative twist. So keep it simple: House is ok (you already know that it’s NOT Lupus) and so is something light and fluffy like The Mentalist; but trying to follow The Wire whilst stuffing your face is setting yourself up for failure. Also see 7.

7. For the reason described above, it is also a good idea to pick a show with subtitles and put them on, ready for those moments when scraping cutlery and the chewing sound in your head interfere with your Mega Dolby Digital 5.1 home cinema set-up with surround sound.

"Gratuitous chewing sounds"

8. Subtitles are there as a back-up plan, not as the main conveyor of dialogue: therefore, if the VM is not in a language you understand well, it will NOT do. So keep your boxset of The Killing in all its original Danish glory for another time, and the same goes for any strange ideas you may about stuffing your face to the first series of Heimat, unless you are fluent in Dutch or German.

9. (WARNING: CONTAINS PLOT SPOILER!) At the risk of stating the obvious, avoid any VM containing excessively gory scenes, as MMM editor Chris found out recently as he was idly eating his dinner during an episode of Boardwalk Empire. Then the scalping scene came on. Oh-oh.

10. Finally, if you are on a diet (this is, after all, the first week of January), don’t bother with any of the above. The chances are that, as you munch on your salad, Tony Soprano will be taunting you from the TV screen with a huge plate of lasagne and calling you a pussy. It’s really not worth torturing yourself. Instead, switch over to the shopping channels and just lose yourself in the first available diet & fitness infomercial, and maybe one day you, too, will look like the Kettlebell swinging, Ab circling Venus/Adonis.

Taunting Bastards

Email Paola at paola@multimediamouth.com, follow her on Twitter @Asphodelia, or leave a comment below!

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Ruben Jay
Ruben Jay
Ruben Jay is an American broadcaster, media blogger, and podcast host. Currently, Ruben is the President of MultiMediaMouth.com and the executive producer and host of the popular podcasts You’re My Best Friend and ON AIR with Ruben Jay, exclusively on MultiMediaMouth.com. Follow Ruben on Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok @TheRubenJay.

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