Benidorm the TV Comedy Series (in English)
Living and working in Benidorm, it didn't take long for street gossip to reach us that a new British TV comedy series was about to be filmed in Benidorm.
We were used to seeing TV cameras from all over Europe, or perhaps the world, descend on our shores. Benidorm had held the title 'Holiday Capital of Europe' for so long that we hardly noticed when yet another documentary was being filmed. But a comedy show? And a British comedy show at that? Well, now this was new.
My bar was essentially a holiday-makers bar, but a series of circumstances like the nearest holiday apartment block closing, all the local hotels turning all-inclusive, and the opening of a new bar in front of me meant that I really wasn' t getting the trade anymore.
However, by this time I had made a lot of friends among the many transitional workers in Benidorm, and they used to come in instead. So I got told what was happening locally on a regular basis.
And what was happening was that many of my friends found themselves in the right place at the right time to apply to be extras on this new show.
Expats Get Work as Extras
Well, from what they told me, they turned up for work everyday, and did a lot of hanging around. In return for all this hanging around, they were paid the princely sum of €50 per day and were fed regularly.
You've got to have spent some time living on the breadline to appreciate just how much money this is.
The minimum wage in Spain is around the €5 an hour mark. An 8 hour day would mean getting paid €40, which to most people is a pittance.
I mean most people here in Spain. Average rents in this part of the world are €500 a month, a packet of cigarettes is upwards of €3, and a pint of milk is €1.
A decent loaf of bread is €3, a pint of lager is €1 in many bars, but they are selling at a loss. It should be sold at about €2.50 - 3.00.
Benidorm is living in a bit of a time-warp. Bars and shops are trying their best to keep prices artificially low to outbid their neighbour, because there are too many bars and shops and not enough people.
But I diverse, this is about the TV program, Benidorm.
Madge fights with guest star, Wendy Richard (RIP)
ME or MS?
Some Funny Clips
The Characters of Benidorm, the TV show
All of us listened out for the long-awaited arrival of this program on our TV screens.
I remember my first thoughts when the first episode was shown. It made Benidorm look cheap and down-market. They introduced the stereo-typical English tourist image that Benidorm is desperate to shrug off. The token Scot wasn't the usual drunk, but he was a sex maniac!
Donald and his equally randy wife Jacqueline were swingers who were up for group sex where-ever it was offered! And they weren't a young couple which made it sort of embarrassing!
They also introduced us to the Mick and Janice Garvey, their teenaged daughter Chantelle, and young son, whose name escapes me, the obligatory mother-in-law (Madge) who personified the typical British tourist of a certain age constantly using hired disabled scooters to get around. That was funny, because anyone living in Benidorm (or there on holiday) cannot fail to notice the sheer volume of people using invalid carriages.
Then there was Martin Weedon and his snooty wife, Kate, who hadn't wanted to come here at all. This wasn't her 'thing'. She wanted to taste thecultureof a foreign land, not come to Blackpool in the sun, as Benidorm is often referred as.
There was Mateo, the typical greasy (but attractive) Spanish waiter who saw all foreign females as fair game, and Troy and Gavin, two gay men. Distinguished actress Chrissy Rock, who performs as a stand-up comedienne in the UK Cabaret Bar, situated underneath the Hotel Presidente in Benidorm, also has a starring role in this show as the hotel manageress come cabaret compere.
The 'star' of the show in Benidorm's beginnings, is comedian Johnny Vegas, who plays a character who calls himself The Oracle. The Oracle is in fact a fat middle-aged bloke who still lives with his mother (who also comes on holiday with him) and who seems to have done nothing useful with his life except retain a load of trivia and useless facts and figures.
With this eclectical mix of characters, the story writer, Derren Litten, has managed to interweave believable and funny plots which each week has millions of viewers glued to their televisions.
I groaned at the first episode, but laughed too, as did all my customers who although they'd missed out on the build-up to the actual showing of this program, they wanted to see because Benidorm was also their holiday destination.
The program typifies the image of the working-class package holiday resort on which Benidorm's reputation was built, but one which Benidorm wants to move away from.
It became a regular thing to have everything done and ready for each episode as it was shown, and gradually we came to love the characters as portrayed by the actors.
Then series 2 came along, with the same group of people meeting up again, although for the most part accidentally.
You have to watch the series to see how it all fitted together, but really ITV have done exceptionally well writing the characters around not only the same hotel, but with the same actors and actresses, and making it all look normal, or as normal as is acceptable for Benidorm.
A lot of strange things happen, but then a lot of strange things actually do happen in Benidorm; its just one of those places!
For the more technical minded amongst us, the hotel used in the making of Benidorm is the Sol Pelicanos in the Rincon de Loix (New Town). The bar they call Neptune's is actually Morgan's Tavern. There is now a bar in Benidorm, named especially to attract visitors who have watched Benidorm, called Neptunes, but it has no relation to the one shown in the program.
I did not know until I read wikipedia's article on Benidorm, the TV program, that the hotel reception area shown often was, in fact, filmed in the nearby Buena Vista Apartments, having never actually been in either place. If you are living in Benidorm, you become acquainted with the outside of many buildings, hotels and apartments, but inside viewing is strictly for staff and holidaymakers.
As can seen on the news below, a new series of Benidorm is planned, featuring Cilla Black and Katie Price in guest starring roles. Johnny Vegas has been dropped from the show, as has Nicholas Burns and Abigail Cruttenden who played Martin and Kate Weedon.
The reasons being given for the changes are that Benidorm is such a massive flagship show for ITV that they want to keep the program fresh, with the introduction of new faces. Should be worth a watch!
Another one off special is planned for later this year (2010), with the new series expected to be aired in 2011.