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Last night’s TV: Come Dine With Me Ireland

Is Come Dine With Me about food or is it about romance? Newcomers might well have found it difficult to answer that question last night as the engaging Irish version of the show (TV3, 9pm) plucked five random strangers from obscurity and thrust them together in a terraced house in Dublin to see how they’d all get along.

Ostensibly, they were there to judge the culinary skills of their hostess, Cora Murphy, a cosmetic surgery nurse with a worrying tendency to find similarities between a fillet of pork and the type of body parts from which she earns a living. (“I can make the distinction between pork and human flesh”, she said at one point, reassuringly for everybody concerned). Ultimately, of course, the real reason for watching, and for tuning in every night for the rest of the week, was to watch the developing relationships between the five.

Cora looks like she was designed by the same people who invented the “blonde and bubbly” cliche. Already, she seems to have won the heart of Darragh McCausland, a shy, awkward, brainbox with a degree in psychotherapy, who is as out of place in this reality tv scenario as a spaceship at the drive-in bingo, but who seems like a bit of a sweetheart, and is easily the most likeable of the people involved. He awarded Cora eight out of ten for her plastic surgery-inspired three course meal - more than anybody else- a hugely generous verdict considering that she’d bought the ciabatta for her starter in the supermarket. Love is blind, however, One wishes that this was a case of opposites attracting, but unfortunately for Darrragh, only one of the opposites seems to be attracted. Cora can barely remember his name.

There’s also a kind of bromance developing between fireman Keith, who told us at the start of the show that he didn’t like loud people but who proceeded to become utterly charmed by IT consultant Johnny, who fancies himself as a bit of a comedian and who tells the kind of jokes which have persuaded many people that Christmas crackers should be banned. The group is completed by Emer, a Weight Watchers leader, who did a lot of bitching about Cora’s food, and about the quantity and quality of the wine, and who has the capacity to become the most annoying of them all. Her turn to cook will come later in the week ; an educated guess is that her meal will be very well prepared, extremely healthy, low in Weight Watchers points, and very, very boring. She looks like she thinks she’ll win this contest. I wouldn’t be so sure.

Meanwhile, BBC4’s weekly rerun of Top Of The Pops continues to prove that the warm memories some of us have about the music of our teenage years are very badly misplaced. We’re up to the summer of 1976 by now and last night’s show featured, amongst other horrors, a boy band called Our Kid (actual boys – they were all about 12), a dance group who couldn’t dance, a tuneless dirge from Gary Glitter’s backing band, and a number 1 single called No Charge, in which a middle aged man called JJ Barrie talked about the martyrdom of motherhood. The summer of 1976, of course, was when punk rock erupted in Britain, but you get no sense of that watching Top Of The Pops. As the series proceeds, it’ll be interesting to see at what point it decided to let the outside world in.