Three in a Bed ticks all the boxes of winning trash TV. There’s the vaguely licentious title, designed to draw viewers in (no, it’s not actually a series about people experimenting with ménages à trois). There’s the twist on a tried-and-tested formula – it’s basically Come Dine with Me with B&Bs. And it’s cheap to produce – the sets are ready-made (they’re the guesthouses in question), so all you need is a film crew.
It even has the potential for comedy narration, à la Come Dine with Me’s voiceover colossus Dave Lamb. Three in a Bed has Stephen Mangan, who played the sociopathic Guy Secretan in medical sitcom Green Wing. It’s only the first series, and Mangan is playing it pretty straight – much as Dave Lamb was forced to do in the early stages.
But Lamb tested the producers a little more with each outing, gradually transforming himself into the full-blown whirlwind of sarcasm and high camp Come Dine with Me fans adore. Mangan, similarly unleashed, could be just as spectacular…
So how does Three in a Bed work? If you’ve not yet seen it, the premise is this: three pairs of B&B owners – they could be husband and wife, mother and daughter – take turns spending a night each in one another’s establishments.
They judge their stays on the same criteria you or I would – decor, cleanliness, warmth of welcome – but as hoteliers themselves (and with a prize at stake) they might be just that little bit more demanding than the average guest.
They rate the second B as well as the first, so the show even delivers the culinary element of Come Dine with Me. And after breakfast, the guests settle their bills – but they hand over only as much as they feel their stay was worth.
As with Come Dine with Me, this formula has the potential to elicit either arch bitchiness or a bit of a love-in. There were both in the first episode I saw, with one resentful couple docking a petty pound here and there, while the other pair were so overwhelmed by the historic atmosphere of the hotel and the hospitality of their opponents that they overpaid by 50 quid!
Three in a Bed is the televisual equivalent of a good bed and breakfast. It has that homely familiarity (did I mention it’s a bit like Come Dine with Me?). It’s great value – hugely undemanding yet highly entertaining. And it boasts that all-important guesthouse attribute – a charming bit of chintz.