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I TALK Benidorm (Series 5)

If you're a regular reader of my blog then you would have realised that whilst I talk often about comedy on BBC, Channel 4 and Sky, I haven't ever mentioned ITV. And there's a good reason for that.

Unlike the golden age of the 70s (Bless This House, Robin's Nest, Man About The House, George & Mildred, On The Buses) where ITV made some great comedy, ITV no longer make decent or consistant comedy sitcoms.

However this all changed in February 2007 when Derren Litten (The Catherine Tate Show) introduced us to Benidorm, a sitcom set in the Spanish coastal town of Benidorm, and centred around the all-inclusive Solana Resort Hotel (a real hotel which is often visited by tourists - of a different type - as a result of the show).

Unusual for most sitcoms, Derren Litten, has written every epsiode of Benidorm on his own which is no mean feat considering that each episode is an hour long and most sitcoms are usually written by a duo in the UK or a team of writers in the US. In 2011, Derren claimed that the fourth series would be his last but insisted that the series could however return with a new writer.

However, it didn't take long for Derren to change his mind and a fifth series was soon in the works, with Derren confirmed to be back as writer.However he announced that he would not write every episode in the fifth series of Benidorm and enlisted the help of Steve Pemberton, who also stars in the show as Mick Garvey to write three episodes. Litten also announced that his return had nothing to do with Jackie Collins tweeting him to say how much Joan would like a cameo in the series, but merely used it as a way to 'camp up' the announcement of his return.

For those unfamiliar with the series, some of the characters include the Garvey family, Mick (played by Steve Pemberton, League of Gentlemen, Psychoville), Janice (played by Siobhan Finneran) and Janice's wheelchair loving mother Madge (played by Sheila Reid).  Johnny Vegas used to star as Geoff, a middle aged man who goes on holiday to Benidorm each year with his mother Noreen, played by Elsie Kelly who continues to star in the series despite Vegas being written out in 2009. For a series that is set in Spain, only one character is Spanish and that's the lovable Mateo, played by Jake Canuso. Mateo is one of the hotel's barmen, and looks after the pool bar. An all-round lothario, Mateo has no trouble with the ladies, serenading many a female British holidaymaker!

And last but not least are the infamous 'swingers' couple Donald and Jaqueline Stewart, played by Kenny Ireland (Acorn Antiques) and Janine Duvitski (One Foot In The Grave). They love nothing better than an early night with another couple helping fulfil their fantasies. Sounds seedy, but it's not, it makes for a couple of great comedy creations. You can always rely on them for the laughs.

Towards the end of series 4, Donald was believed to have died when in fact it was revealed in the final episode that he faked his death to defraud an insurance company. Many of the holidaymakes still think he's alive and when Kenneth (T), one of the regular holidaymakers who now runs the Solana Salon, spots him he believes him to be a ghost, until they are forced to explain how they got out of their sticky situation.

The first episode saw a new arrival, Joyce Temple-Savage, played by Sherrie Hewson (Coronation Street, Loose Women) taking over from Janey (Crissy Rock) as manager of the Solana. At first we meet her as a holidaymaker unhappy about losing her luggage and when questioning why there wasn't a meet & greet service, Mateo (Jake Canuso) delivers one the best lines of the entire episode when he says, "Meet & greet? Where do you think you are? Disneyland? Do I look like a mouse?'. Disguising herself as a holidaymaker, Joyce witnesses the hotel's staff struggling to cope without a manager and the place seems to be falling apart.

As the episode continues the rest of the staff learn that Joyce Savage-Temple is the new manager of the Solana, shortly after Mateo had made the mistake of calling the new manger, who he had yet to meet "another English asshole!" and makes a further dig at her when he says "I think they were right" when referring to the fact they were told the new manager would be a man. Her ambition is to turn the Solana Resort Hotel into a 4-star resort and encourage a higher class of holidaymakers, beginning by insisting to play classical music, much to the holidaymakers annoyance, apart from Gavin (Hugh Sachs) who lets it slip that he doesn't mind it!

She ends the episode by replacing the nightly karaoke with a live rendition of classical music by Asa Elliott, a regular singer in the Neptunes bar. When Madge discovers who he is the episode ends with a rendition of Journey's Don't Stop Believin'.

Tim Healy reprised his role as cross-dressing barman/barmaid Les/Lesley, he now finds himself working alongside his son Liam as he becomes the hotel's caretaker. In the first episode we see him recieve advice on the ladies from none other than Mateo. When Liam puts Mateo's advice into practice he receives a rather impressive head butt from newcomer Trudy (Michelle Butterly, Eyes Down) who is the new friend that Sam (Shelley Longworth, Tittybangbang) has brought along to Benidorm with her this year. When Joyce first sees Les dressed as Lesley he asks her "Weren't you dressed as a man earlier?" to which he replies brilliantly and straight to the point, "Yes pet"!

Benidorm is not afraid of including a cameo or two, previous cameos include; Cilla Black (Blind Date), Louie Spence (Pineapple Dance Studios), Brian Murphy (George & Mildred), Su Pollard (Hi-De-Hi), Denise Welch (Coronation Street, Loose Women) and the late Wendy Richard (Are You Being Served?, EastEnders).

Series 5 is no different with cameos including Matthew Kelly (Stars In Their Eyes), Kate O'Mara (Dynasty), Michael Fenton Stevens (My Family) and Ted Robbins (Phoenix Nights, Lead Balloon). The first episode was brilliant and it's great to see Benidorm back on our screens. Sherrie Hewson is a welcome addition to the cast, and if the first episode is anything to go by then I'm sure her character, Joyce Temple-Savage will help make this new series another great one and in the words of the character herself, she "will not be beaten".

Benidorm continues Friday nights at 9pm on ITV1


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