Dinner for One – 18-Minute New Year’s Eve Tradition – Review

By Paul Riegler on 27 December 2012
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The same procedure as last year?

The same procedure as last year?

In many parts of the world, New Year’s Eve, or Silvester, includes sitting down and watching an 18-minute black-and-white comedy sketch that dates back to 1963, namely Dinner for One.

Despite being entirely in English (except for a one-minute introduction), this cult classic has its roots in German television.  It was recorded in a single take in 1963 by the Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) but didn’t become a hit until it was broadcast as filler on New Year’s Eve in 1972.

Dinner for One is the story of the 90th birthday dinner of Miss Sophie, an upper-class English woman who hosts such an event every year for her close friends, Mr. Pommeroy, Mr. Winterbottom, Sir Toby, and Admiral von Schneider.  Miss Sophie, as moderator Heinz Piper points out before the skit starts, has outlived all of her friends, however, so her butler James stands in for each guest, requiring him to drink multiple toasts on behalf of each personage.

Throughout the skit, James enquires of Miss Sophie, “the same procedure as last year?” to which Miss Sophie consistently and emphatically replies, “the same procedure as every year, James.”  Audiences around the world have memorized these and other lines and tend to recite them ad nauseam as Silvester draws closer.

Dinner for One is performed by British comedians Freddie Frinton and May Warden.  In addition to 70% of the German population, its audience includes many in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland, as well as in Australia and South Africa.  It is almost unknown in the United Kingdom, despite the fact that its stars and author, Lauri Wylie, hail from there.

When a 2004 article in Der Spiegel looked into the mystery of Dinner for One’s cult status, it found that not only had the BBC never aired it, but the BBC spokesman had never even heard of it.

From all of us at Frequent Business Traveler, Bonne Annee, Boldog Új Évet Kivánok, Gott nytt år, Feliz año nuevo ,С Новым годом, Felice anno nuovo, Prosit Neujahr, and Happy New Year.


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