TV review: Dinner At 11 serves up childish view of the world

Patience-stretching television… Dinner At 11
5 Jun 2014 @ 10.13 pm
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Patience-stretching television… Dinner At 11
Patience-stretching television… Dinner At 11. Photograph: Channel 4 / Phil Fisk

Dinner At 11, Channel 4, Monday
The World Cup, Just About Everywhere

Who would you have on your perfect dinner party list? And how many of them were born in the 21st century?

None, obviously, but in Dinner At 11, a patience-stretching Channel 4 programme this week, we were treated to an entire squad of pre-teens putting the world to rights over the evening meal.

Eight children, all aged 11, were selected after a nationwide search to air their views on anything that took their fancy. “No adults were invited, no subjects were off-limits,” said voice-over Rory Kinnear.

Terrestrial TV’s most disingenuous channel tried to present this bizarre offering as an interesting piece of sociological research.

We were informed that thousands of schools had been contacted before the final eight were selected.

You do wonder who Channel 4 think they are catering for with programmes like this. Not fellow 11-year-olds who should be tucked up in bed by 10.50pm.

As for parents, bombarded all day by their children’s take on things, why turn to Channel 4 for more punishment after lights-out?

Nevertheless, it made for less grim viewing than you might have envisaged, albeit very much a game of two halves.

Some ‘dinner guests’ held views that displayed a sense of perspective and even of occasional wisdom.

One of the 'adorable' dinner guests, Kain
One of the ‘adorable’ dinner guests, Kain

On the subject of relationships, Alice (who has unfortunately picked up the grown-up habit of using her index fingers to make quotation marks) feared that some people just wanted to be seen to have a boyfriend or girlfriend because it makes them look good.

Kain, who likes playing the ukulele and fishing, was concerned about social media, which he didn’t seem too keen on, preferring face-to-face contact.

Another lad, who has a disabled sister, said that some people didn’t know how to act around her. He also lamented that life was “not as normal as it could be”.

Rather touchingly, he had enough self-awareness to worry that saying this might make him sound a little selfish.

Reminding us that they’re still kids, I liked the “yuk” sounds from the group as one girl admitted to having a warm feeling when she’d held hands with a boy she liked.

The flip side was the stuff that all kids do, just regurgitating the views of adults. A by-election here would not have gone well for the Tories.

Nobody put in good word for David Cameron and Joshua said that the Prime Minister would be “the death of this country”.

What would I have brought to the table as an 11-year-old on TV in 1965?

Well, I might have passed on my mum’s view that the new Tory party leader Ted Heath was a little stiff and formal, but would make a fine PM as long as he found a wife.

He’d need her to support him as he went about tackling the mess “the Socialists” were creating.

Maybe I would have expressed wonder at the number of gifts one boy at school received from his vast army of uncles.

His flighty mother was unattached and I think the gang on Dinner At 11 would have been better at joining the dots than we were.

Yes, we were less worldly wise than this bunch. One girl on Dinner at 11 said that she would not get married but would have children.

My understanding at age 11 had been that you could have children if you weren’t married, but that you weren’t supposed to.

Kain played us out with a bit of George Formby and I should, as a parting shot, put in a good word for sisters Gabriella, ten, and Annabelle, 13, who fed and watered our loquacious young diners with a fine three-course meal.

Prince of pundits Gary Lineker ready to tackle the World Cup. Photograph: BBC / Andrew Hayes-Watkins
Prince of pundits Gary Lineker ready to tackle the World Cup. Photograph: BBC / Andrew Hayes-Watkins

The World Cup is already everywhere, with some excellent programmes about past tournaments, documentaries about Brazil and full coverage of England’s warm-up matches with Peru, Ecuador and Honduras.

I shall, of course, be glued to the set when the action starts. It’s hard to see beyond a tedious Brazil procession to the final, helped by sympathetic referees, although I hope I’m wrong.

England could, I suppose, make the last eight if some young players come good and a few more-established names over-achieve for once.

It’s in England’s hands, but I would refer readers to the conspiracy theory as outlined in my World Cup draw column a couple of months ago.

I did fancy Belgium to have a great run but now I’m not so sure.

I was disappointed to learn in World Soccer magazine that one of their best players, Eden Hazard, has so little regard for his international team-mates that he was once spotted at a burger stall during a match, after having been brought on a substitute and then subbed himself.

I’m sure that the Flemish and the Walloons will dance in the streets together if Belgium make it to Rio on July 13.

But Hazard doesn’t sound to me like the kind of man on a mission to unite a divided nation.