Eat It and Beat It

It’s fun to catch sight of celebrities eating in restaurants (see review), but do we really want more than a glimpse? Years ago, someone had a bright idea for a cable TV show starring New York celebrities like fashion designer Halston, artist Andy Warhol, singer Liza Minnelli and a socialite or two sitting around a dinner table, eating and making witty, pungent conversation. The concept never took off, because it’s one thing to sit around watching Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn eat and yammer for 110 minutes in My Dinner With Andre, the art-house hit of 1981, but quite another to watch superstars get drunk and sloppy.

But what if you could watch a much-edited dinner party on TV, then get on the Internet and vote two of the more offensive diners off the guest list? That’s the concept that Jack Cashill — novelist, editor, filmmaker and conservative pundit — has for a syndicated TV show to be called Dinner Party.TV. He’ll be pitching a thirty-minute pilot (which he and partner Mike Wunsch taped last week at the Hereford House‘s catering facility, the Hollywood Room) at the National Association of Television Program Executives convention next week.

Cashill cast himself in the pilot episode, along with actress Cathy Barnett and her actor-husband, Dan, the token celebrities in the bunch, and five other lesser lights — including me. (I deserved to be voted off immediately.) A TV crew aimed two cameras at the table for all of the ninety-minute, six-course meal. The chatter wasn’t exactly enlightening, but it had its comic moments, thanks mostly to the antics of Barnett, a former stand-up comedian.

“It was a little more tame than I had hoped,” says Cashill, who concedes that eating in front of TV cameras might have a chilling effect on truly bawdy conversation. He hopes that the actual show, if it’s sold, will have guests talking about more topical and political themes, because they’re “as likely to be voted off the successive dinner parties for what they say as how they say it.”

With two guests getting dumped each show, it seems unlikely that a dinner party of eight could actually sustain a TV series, but Cashill plans to introduce new people in each episode. “If the two new guests keep getting voted off, it could go on for a while.”

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