Posts Tagged ‘Benidorm’

When you think of British TV what comes to mind? Cozy, quaint seaside villages with quirky residents? Country manors where murders are committed at an alarming rate, yet no one pauses to consider they might live in a dodgy neighborhood? Or do your thoughts immediately go to the bustling metropolis of London where young professionals suffer the soulless dating scene and housing estates run rampant with drugs and thugs? Whether UK telly means the Yorkshire moors or the Scottish Highlands, you may have to buck up your ideas about where British TV can take you.

It’s likely the things I’ve chosen to watch of late come down to my mood, but there’s no debating that there is a definite international feel to TV production these days. Look at Game of Thrones for example – American network, predominantly British and Irish cast and location shoots from Morocco and Malta to Croatia and Northern Ireland.

Lately, UK networks have been taking their shows on the road to settings beyond our beloved island across the pond. In fact since the beginning of the year, I’ve watched a trio of series that are set, in large part, in other countries while still featuring British characters often telling uniquely British stories.

In The Missing, for example, the Hughes family takes a holiday in northern France only to have their five year old son disappear into thin air the first night. Tony (James Nesbitt) is not only tormented and heart-broken but also guilt-ridden that his son has somehow been abducted under his care. He and his wife Emily (Frances O’Connor) must go through the unbearable ordeal of losing their child in addition to the pressure of an investigation in a foreign country far from friends and family and in the spotlight of the media. French is spoken by most of the local characters interspersed with police officers, for example, who also parlez anglais. Of course it has to be that way for the audience, but if the there was more French it would more authentically portray the parents’ feelings of isolation and disorientation.

Slightly reminiscent of the Madeleine McCann case from eight years ago, The Missing is a haunting portrait of every parent’s nightmare fused with a taunt and compelling mystery.

Filmed in Belgium for its advantageous tax breaks, you still get the feel of a quaint French village -the fictional Chalons du Bois – which is not what it appears on the surface. Its underbelly can be quite unsavory so you may want to reconsider booking your next vacation there.

The action comedy, The Wrong Mans, on the other hand, plops mild mannered Berkshire County Council employees Sam Pinkett (Mathew Baynton) and Phil Bourne (James Corden) right into the center of yet another chaotic life-threatening mission. Their travels begin with a stint in witness protection and a short stay in a Texas correctional facility (Texas was body doubled by South Africa, in case you were wondering).  After a jail break, the boys find themselves in Slovenia where they unknowingly join the company of terrorists who, in a classic case of mistaken identity, expect Sam and Phil to steal chemicals and build a bomb for them. On the last leg of their trip, the duo board a train to France, commandeer a plane to fly across the Channel and, once on English soil, hitchhike back to Bracknell to save the day.

As the clip above demonstrates, Sam and Phil are British through and through no matter where their globe-trotting escapades find them. I mean no one but the English really says “Doolally”, do they? Thus proving that sometimes you have to leave home to discover how much you truly belong there.

The Honourable Woman is probably the most multicultural of the three series mentioned here. American actress Maggie Gyllenhaal (who puts on her very best Emma Thompson accent) plays Nessa Stein, an Anglo-Israeli woman who has recently been given a peerage for her dedicated work towards peace in the Middle East. Her dream is to bring equal opportunity to Gaza through the Stein Foundation. A Palestinian-Israeli college has already been established and upgrades for reliable internet access are underway. The progress has to be put on hold, however, when Nessa’s  new Arab business partner mysteriously commits suicide just before the last phase of this joint project can begin. And this is when Ms. Stein’s carefully orchestrated life begins to unravel.

Spied on by more than one country, including the one who made her a Baroness, Nessa tries to find a sense of belonging of the land of her ancestors and the land of her birth. A poor orphan girl who witnessed her father’s assassination, Nessa has suffered more than her share of losses and traumas, none more so than those inflicted on her in the Gaza Strip (nicely portrayed by Douar el Ghadban, Morocco).

So I guess my point here is that we take our national identity with us when we travel away from home and so too can a TV series or film. It’s point of view, experience and characters that provide British flavor much more than the backdrop of a Tudor castle or a big tower with a loud clock. In fact if the sitcom, Benidorm proves one thing, you can take the family out of Britain, but you can’t take Britain out of the family.

Cast of Benidorm safe from foreigners inside their resort walls image credit Tiger Aspect Productions and ITV

The cBenidast of Benidorm safe from foreigners inside the walls of their resort
image credit Tiger Aspect Productions and ITV

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Anglophiles United at our "local" pub quiz Image Credit Laurie Frashure

Anglophiles United at our “local” pub quiz
Image Credit Laurie Frashure

As you may know I occasionally report on the activities of my Anglophile group, cleverly named Anglophiles United. This week a large contingent of our membership hit the road in hopes of experiencing an authentic British pub quiz. This outing was educational in scope and the fact that alcohol was freely available had nothing to do with our healthy turnout…

We gathered at an establishment with a name designed to avoid any confusion about its purpose or mission, The Pub. This American franchise concentrated in the Midwest and Southeast is to the the public house what mock Tudor housing developments are to historical stately homes. The serving staff wear kilt-ish uniforms, in addition to ales and whiskey they serve American cocktails like martinis and Manhattans, and they are located in an upscale shopping mall complex. To be fair they don’t claim that they’re the genuine article. Their slogan is “British-inspired, American-crafted” after all.

After keeping our tartan-clad wait staff (yes, we had three) busy with orders of shepherd’s pie, scotch eggs and lots of beer and wine, the quiz began. We broke into three teams -ours chose the name Jiggle Me Timbers because my son thought it would be amusing if the quiz mistress had to announce it over the PA system. There was no vetting process or pre-quiz selection though I can’t blame Inspector Fowler for trying to weed out the dimmest of the dim on his team.



The quiz itself consisted of twenty general knowledge questions, a speed round which required participants to order an actors’ films from oldest to newest, and the final round which tested our musical knowledge. Apparently technical difficulties are common as we had a similar experience to the members of the Phoenix Club – just without the record player.



None of our trio of teams won the big prize; however, luck was with us as each participant was given a ticket for door prizes and our entourage won all three drawings!  Each team left with bar glasses and gift certificates and no animosity towards the Hot Moms who apparently beat us by two lousy points. Nor was there any shoe throwing out in the parking lot after…



And as far as I know, there were no diva pub quiz champions in the crowd that night. At least no one threw a hissy fit like the Oracle did in Benidorm. It’s all just a bit of fun, mate!



All in all, I’d have to say our pub experience was a fun night out.  However if British TV shows accurately depict the UK pub quiz experience, ours did not approach the same level of competitiveness or nor was anyone’s ego or reputation at risk if they lost. Well, perhaps my son had higher aspirations for our side. That being said, he did win the speed round for us and the indeed the Jiggle Me Timbers team had their name announced throughout The Pub for all to hear.




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Update: Sympathies go out to the family of Kenny Ireland and the cast of Benidorm. Mr. Ireland, who played aging swinger Donald Stewart, passed away after a battle with cancer on July 31, 2014.

As Winter Storm Hercules pummels the eastern regions of the US, it seems to be the perfect time to ponder a warm weather getaway, right? I normally eschew beachy vacations; I don’t like to be sweaty, I’m not a strong swimmer and I find lounging in the sun to be mind-numbingly dull.  That’s what makes telly so great – I can watch other people having a disastrous holiday and I don’t even have to don a bathing suit – another thing I avoid at all costs.

So over the past few days I chose to take the less sandy option and started watching series one of a long running ITV sitcom called Benidorm. The show follows a strange mix of tourists from around the UK who return year after year to the same Spanish holiday resort.


ITV's Benidorm Series 1 cast

ITV’s Benidorm Series 1 cast


What keeps these vacationers coming back? As far as I can tell  the biggest selling point is being a good value for money (that’s English-speak for cheap, by the way).

Here are a couple of the things I learned by visiting Benidorm, via YouTube of course.

1. That Benidorm is an actual place:

Spanish coastal town and tourist resort on the Mediterranean Sea

Spanish coastal town and tourist resort on the Mediterranean Sea


Located in Eastern Spain on the Costa Blanca, Benidorm became a preferred vacation destination for Western Europeans. Popular for its affordable package holiday schemes, Benidorm’s visitors gained a reputation for being binge drinking ruffians in the 80’s; however, it transformed into a more family friendly leisure spot in the subsequent decades.


2. The British desperately seek out the sun, some to an unhealthy degree:



I sort of knew this already since many of my expat friends choose tropical climes whenever they go on holiday.  Regardless of the exact location, I always seem to hear stories involving Germans who attempt to reserve deck chairs with their beach towels or some such breach of sunbathing etiquette.  After Benidorm, it all becomes a tad clearer though no one I know personally is as “dedicated” to the rays as old Madge (Sheila Reid).


3. They aren’t very adventurous travellers. It’s as if the Brits really just want to go somewhere warm and rain-free and for everything else to be just like home – the fry-ups, the accents, the karaoke and pub quizzes.  And they take their trivia very seriously in the UK I can tell you.  Just meet The Oracle (Johnny Vegas) if you don’t believe me.



At the Solana resort your holiday expenses (food, drink and activities) are all-inclusive, as long as you stay on the property which consists of a pool, a swim up bar, a cheesy nightspot called the Neptune Bar and the most basic of hotel accommodations.



You’re not going to spend that much time in your room anyhow, right? Not when you’re on your holidays.


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