Back in Time for Dinner describes itself as a ‘factual series’ which is a more attractive label than ‘reality show’.
The premise is delightfully simple—find a nice family of Mum, Dad and kids and catapult them into a past era, with all the fashions, food and culture of that time.
Back in Time for Dinner is a living social history documentary with real people rather than actors.
The seven-part series features the Ferrone family, Dad Peter, Mum Carol, 17-year- old Julian, 14-year-old Sienna and 10-year-old Olivia.
As host Annabel Crabb transports them back in time to post-war Australia in 1950 for the first episode, they soon see that life was very different.
The first epicurean cab off the rank was 1950s Australia, and the contrast with family roles, activities and food in 2018 was a shock for the Ferrones.
Mum Carol got the short straw, with her role as queen of the household meaning she spent most of her time in the kitchen or cleaning the house, all without modern labour-saving devices such as refrigerators or one-touch washing machines. And don’t even ask about a dishwasher!
The limited dishes she could prepare were a trial for this family, who admit with pride that they love eating.
But when tripe in white sauce was served, it did indeed end in tears both for Carol and little Olivia, while husband Peter put his bravest face on and teens Julian and Sienna just looked stunned.
While Carol was overburdened with work and felt trapped as a housewife, husband Peter hated the fact that his role at times was to eat in glorious isolation as befitted the head of the house—while Carol slaved away. For a thoroughly modern gentleman, his anguish at not being allowed to help his wife and share the kitchen was plain to see.
But there were good sides to this simpler life. With no television in the early 1950s, board games and radio dominated, and the younger generation noted that it was quite nice to talk to each other and spend time together.
Life in the 1960s improved a little, with Carol hosting a Tupperware party for her friends and there being a wider variety of food options available, and the advent of a black and white television caused great delight.
The funniest scene in the 1960s episode was Sienna’s bewildered look when faced with a rotary dial phone, which she had no idea how to use. She was horrified that the phone couldn’t be taken somewhere private but was in a public place where her conversations could be overheard.
This is a delightful series that will bring waves of nostalgia to the over-50s, and shocked fascination for the millennials among us.