Arts

Television: Hogarthian dregs on a package tour

Benidorm (ITV, 9pm, Mondays) confirms that the English really shouldn’t go out in the midday sun. Think a funny Eldorado with fat, pale and perpetually drunk residents in a Costa Blanca-based sitcom – looking like Hogarthian dregs on a package tour. A transvestite barman dolls out pink cocktails to Yorkshire swingers. The handyman is a fading Spanish stud with urges that get lost in translation: “Time is of the effluence,” he likes to say. And when a guest complains that he’s been waiting 10 minutes to be served a whiskey, the platinum blonde manageress looks at her watch and observes: “Ah yes, how else to ease into the day at 10.30am?” Service is most definitely not included.

Is it accurate? Probably. When I was a kid my family holidayed in Majorca (pronounced “May-orc-haa” by the locals and “Madge-orka” by barbarian invaders). I fondly remember karaoke and talent show contests – and one dark night forgetting there was a swimming pool and walking straight into the deep end. Down I went – screaming silently – then straight back up into a night full of cockroaches and maternal panic. And my father laughing wickedly.

Benidorm could also be accused of laughing at working-class misfortune. But, oh, it’s so funny. Johnny Vegas returns from a paintball excursion with a long list of complaints. A) There were only four people on the tour, including the guide. B) The paint was gloss. And C) the guide turned out to be a damaged ex-marine who vented decades of PTSD on Vegas’s terrified mother. “She’s a senior citizen!” cries Vegas, pointing at a little old lady covered head to toe in green paint.

Again, this experience is pretty universal. Anyone who has ever been to Israel will know that every holiday, no matter how expensive the guide or supposedly luxurious the hotel, is essentially “self-catering”. Like a Carry On without the innuendos, Benidorm is not for the faint-hearted. But the horrors are universal. We’ve all been there: we have the mosquito bites to prove it.