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You’re as camp as a Brighton bus queue!” — The Bön Mots of Benidorm

I’ve snob­bishly held out against the sun-damaged charms of ITV’s pack­age hol­i­day sit­com Benidorm, set in the ‘all inclus­ive’ Hotel Solana, for sev­eral series. But the sixth one — which sadly this week pours the sand out of its shoes and packs its bags for another year — had me sur­ren­der­ing to it more legs akimbo than the Solanas’ Mrs Slocombe-esque man­ageress Joyce Temple-Savage for Matthew Kelly.

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Created and writ­ten by Derren Litten (co-writer for The Catherine Tate Show), Benidorm is Carry On meets St Trinians meets Are You Being Served? meets Lady Windermere’s Suntan — and gets an ‘all-inclusive’ hangover and runny tummy. A proper char­ac­ter actor ensemble, rather than a vehicle for some jumped-up stand-up’s over­ween­ing ego, and with some lines that glisten like an obese Brit’s back in the Costa Del Sol noon-day sun, it’s very old-fashioned com­edy — which is to say, actu­ally funny instead of just sneery-cringey.

No won­der the crit­ics hate it. (See also that other recent ITV com­edy tri­umph Vicious.) Benidorm is tacky and trashy and stuck in the past but doesn’t mind who knows it, thank you very much.

Kenneth Du Beke
Kenneth Du Beke (Tony Maudsley)

Everyone is a cari­ca­ture but instantly recog­nis­able. Well, every­one is a cari­ca­ture except for Kenneth Du Beke (Tony Maudsley) the over­weight chain-smoking gay man­ager of the Solana’s salu­bri­ous hairdress­ing salon Blow ‘n’ Go who with his rather ‘young’ and ‘cheery’ styl­ing was mis­taken by Philip Olivier (aka ‘Tinhead’ from Brookside) for a children’s enter­tainer. He’s just doc­u­ment­ary.

Tacky and trashy and trapped in the past it may be, but Benidorm is also often well-written and sharply observed. The whole of epis­ode three (below) is quite bril­liant and takes on a very con­tem­por­ary sub­ject — judgey gay assump­tions about the rela­tion­ship between mas­culin­ity and sexu­al­ity — that most ‘ser­i­ous’ dra­mas wouldn’t dare.

The scene at 21:38 between love­able Liam Conroy (Adam Gillen) , the swishy Tenko and Dynasty fan and hairdresser who has fallen in love with a girl, and his narrow-minded tight-clothed gay boss who knows bet­ter and insists Liam is ‘really gay’ and is going to end up ‘liv­ing a lie’ deserves an Oscar:

Liam: “You need to learn to accept people for who they are! Just because I don’t fit into YOUR ste­reo­type of how a man should be doesn’t give you per­mis­sion to call me names! I am what I am and what I am [swings arm and pirou­ettes, badly] needs no excuses!!”

Likewise Benidorm is what it is and needs no excuses either. And as Liam’s cross-dressing dad Les/Lesley from Wearside would say: “Thank fook for that!”

Oh, and in case you think that Liam’s dilemma could only exist in a silly sit­com and never in real life — have a read of this heart­felt post by the young bal­let dan­cer Chehon Wespi-Tschopp about the way too many gay men treat him because he doesn’t fit into their ste­reo­type of how a man should be.

2 thoughts on “You’re as camp as a Brighton bus queue!” — The Bön Mots of Benidorm”

  1. I’m oddly cheered that you like Benidorm, Mark. I had the same atti­tude as you, until I actu­ally saw it. And that was only once, a couple of years back and shame­fully late on new year’s eve. It left a crack­ling impres­sion. A lot of tele­vi­sion aspires to be “tacky and trashy”, but it’s rather a dif­fer­ent thing to do it well.

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