If you’re American or British, you have almost certainly never seen the English-language TV program which holds the Guinness Record for most all-time broadcasts. “Dinner For One” was recorded in Germany in 1963 and has been broadcast New Year’s Eve just about every year since. I experienced it while living in Denmark – Danes watch this 18 minute program religiously every New Years – and they roll on the floor in laughter. The party literally stops to watch this black-and-white sketch on TV.
The first time I watched it, my European friends were astonished that I had never seen it before. On par with Monty Python, Mr. Bean and all that other British-style humor, they said. Nearly half of the German population watches it every year. How could Brits and Americans not know this program? Danes actually thought it was a favorite in England.
Danes I know can quote the entire program, including the famous lines by the butler, “Same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?”, “Same procedure as every year, James.”
My (Danish) wife reminded me the other day that this is a key part of New Year’s Eve she misses from the Old Country. Lo and behold, a freelance writer living in Berlin wrote a brief piece about it in the LA Times today, prompting me to speculate why this cult phenomenon, which is in English, after all, never made it to the US?
We watch Dick Clark and that silly ball from Times Square, and that’s a fine enough tradition. Why do so many more Europeans watch this program? They could care less about Times Square, which I can relate from experience (ok, it also takes place 6 hours later, when Europeans have all passed out…)
Maybe “Dinner for One” will never be shown on American broadcast television, but thanks to YouTube and Google Video, we can all experience this cult classic tradition. I promise to do my part to bring this piece of English humor to the American audience. And win points with my wife. One piece of advice – watch it with friends, learn the lines, and drink a lot. Whatever you do, stick around for the punchline at the end.
Happy New Year to all!
Google video – a shorter version filmed in Switzerland
BBC article – although they have apparently never shown it in the UK: