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.

grey Youre as camp as a Brighton bus queue!   The Bon Mots of Benidorm

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.

grey Youre as camp as a Brighton bus queue!   The Bon Mots of Benidorm

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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