Tune in, switch off - Infamy of Brits abroad

16th October 2009 at 01:00
A stint as publicity officer for Mel's Mobility Scooters involved Mick riding a 20ft high bike wearing tin foil

It's Hi-De-Hi! crossed with Are You Being Served?, topped with dollops of Spanish sun. My hairdresser confessed that she couldn't bear to watch Benidorm (ITV1), because it showed Brits behaving so badly. For me this is a normal day at work, I thought, and tuned in to see for myself.

Martin's new girlfriend, Brandy (Sheridan Smith), reminded me of all those teenage girls we battle with to remove jewellery and make-up. Their offensive charm comes from the truths they tell that most of us choose to hide. Not surprisingly, Brandy had all the best lines. Dismayed by her hotel room, she announced that it made Anne Frank's attic look like Disneyland.

Praising a couple for their sexual orientation, she proclaimed her love for gay people even though their lives were filled with tragedy: "All your friends dying of the Aids an' that and you enduring a lifetime of persecution." It was so cringeworthy it could have been Borat.

Mick, played by Steve Pemberton without League of Gentlemen costumes or rubber bits, showed paternal affection in what now passes, I suppose, as the modern British family: "Ger in that pool, you're supposed to be on holiday." The repeated endearment from his daughter was "Dickhead", when she was not attending to a child we would once have described as illegitimate.

A stint as publicity officer for Mel's Mobility Scooters involved Mick riding a 20ft high bike wearing tin foil. Credibility and the imagination stretched in equal measure. Meanwhile, like a character in a Carry On film, Martin groped for language to describe female unmentionable bits. But "lady awning" and "flappage" might have made even Kenneth Williams blush.

The highlight was Johnny Vegas, delivering a stand-up stomp as champion of British values: playing by the rules, fighting to win, defending the dream, that sort of thing. Startled tourists hadn't a clue what he was shouting about. But isn't this what made Britain great? I just hope they don't show Benidorm in any country I might visit.

From adults behaving like children on the Costa Blanca to young actors playing oldies, Bugsy Malone-style, in School of Comedy (E4). A brief encounter with Brief Encounter was full of open vowels, wide eyes and lipstick-coated ladies proclaimed their breathy - "I love you, but I'm a woman" - love for each other. Children attempting adult parts for real can doom a school play, but parody works. They were like painted, polished nursery toys coming to life after dark. And not a drop of fake tan in sight.

  • Ray Tarleton is principal of South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon.

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