The Real Marigold Hotel

Box office hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel brought together the cream of British acting royalty in the feelgood tale of a group of pensioners moving to a retirement complex in India. Not to be outdone, the BBC has launched its own version – except, instead of Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith, this one stars Catchphrase host Roy Walker, ‘king of darts’ Bobby George and everyone’s ninth favourite Doctor Who, Sylvester McCoy.

The twist is it’s not a drama but a reality show, in which eight famous senior citizens spend three weeks living together in a haveli in Jaipur. You know that cross between EM Forster and Celebrity Big Brother you’ve always dreamed of? Dream no more.

Unlike CBB, this lot are a likeable bunch, on the whole. Dancer Wayne Sleep admitted he was hoping for spiritual enlightenment, but was just as likely to get dysentery, while chef Rosemary Shrager took a meditation class at a local ashram in a bid to rid herself of the very British affliction of ‘getting in a tizzy’.

Anyone who saw Miriam Margolyes’s unlikely double act with will.i.am on the Graham Norton show a couple of years ago will know she’s a bit of scene-stealer: ‘I do fart, and they’ll just have to accept that,’ the actress said, breezily. It might have something to do with the tube of Vegemite she’d brought with her; Bobby George’s luggage, meanwhile, consisted of two bags of arthritis medication and a dart board. Well naturally.

The group spent much of the first episode trying to avoid being run over by mopeds, failing dismally at bartering and squirming as their chicken dinner had its throat cut in front of their eyes, then continued to thrash about in the shopping basket. They also experienced both sides of India’s stark class divide, being welcomed into the family home of their impoverished tour guide before taking tea with the Maharaja. ‘Do you play darts? George asked the royal family, hopefully.

It’s an engaging, gently thought-provoking twist on the celebrity travelogue. And, as a bonus, The Real Marigold Hotel has already delivered what may be 2016’s ‘Poldark moment’ – if that’s what you can call the sight of Catchphrase’s Roy Walker in his underpants.

 

TV extra:

Stan Lee’s Lucky Man

Stan Lee has created some pretty outlandish characters in his time – including Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Hulk – but none quite as ridiculous as Harry Clayton, an off-the-shelf troubled cop (drink problem, gambling addiction, ex-wife, etc) with the ‘London Police’ who’s suddenly gifted the power of extraordinary good luck.

James Nesbitt is the distinctly **unlucky** man left to wrestle with a script so sloppy they must have carried it in on a tray. It even ended with a speedboat chase, not seen on British television since they cancelled Dempsey and Makepeace. Heroically awful.

 

Do Not Disturb

This Gold original comedy was a shamelessly old-school farce about an estranged couple double-booked into the same room on their 10th wedding anniversary.

Featuring everything from blow-up dolls and Russian hookers to naked strangers in the bathtub, it was daft, enjoyable fun, with a brave performance from Catherine Tate as Anna, giving it the full Meg Ryan after years of marriage to a man who preferred Newsnight to sex. The standout turn, though, was Sian Gibson, proving just as funny and adorable as she was in Car Share. A star is born.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, January 28 2016

(c) Waitrose Weekend