The Real Marigold Hotel (2017)

‘Any similarity to the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is purely coincidental’ says a disclaimer at the start of The Real Marigold Hotel. Which is not strictly true, is it? The name’s no coincidence, for a start.

Anyway, the series, in which eight senior celebs scout out potential retirement opportunities in India (or at least pretend to – personally, I think they just fancied doing a bit of primetime telly in their golden years) proved a big hit for the BBC last year. So everyone involved must be acutely conscious of not wanting this follow-up to become The Second Best Real Marigold Hotel.

Fortunately, the genial, amusing new recruits prove to be great company – the nearest thing to a diva is former Three Degree Sheila Ferguson, who stole Bill Oddie’s hotel room after explaining: ‘There’s a natural order to the universe. Some people follow and some people lead. And I tend to lead.’ She’s American, in case you hadn’t guessed.

Paul Nicholas, on the other hand, couldn’t be more English, spending the first day in the exotic port of Kochi – ‘the Queen of the Adriatic’ – shopping for underpants, which he claims his wife had neglected to pack for him. He eventually struck lucky with eight pairs of Playboy briefs (medium).

Lionel Blair, meanwhile, literally danced off the plane, treating the locals to a soft shoe shuffle in the airport. But, at 87, he admitted to being ‘shaken’ by the thought of spending a month in ‘a shanty town’. ‘I’m a stew and dumplings man,’ he lamented during the Welcome Curry. A riverboat trip through lush rice paddy fields soon converted him, and by the end of the first week he’d fallen in love with the place.

Amanda Barrie – who, rather endearingly, described herself as a ‘sort of actress’ – was equally smitten, admitting that, as a retirement prospect, ‘it’s got the edge on Eastbourne’. And snooker legend Dennis Taylor offered some home thoughts from abroad during a Hindu festival parade, claiming: ‘You don’t get three beautifully dressed elephants walking through Wrexham.’ It’s hard to argue with that, really.

TV extra:


Terry Pratchett: Back in Black

When Terry Pratchett died from Alzheimer’s in 2015, 30,000 of his fans signed a petition demanding Death – the Discworld author’s most popular character – send him back. In this wonderful, witty and moving documentary, Death complied (sort of), allowing Pratchett to tell his own story in his own, wryly philosophical words from beyond the grave, thanks to Paul Kate’s brilliantly convincing impersonation. ‘They say your life flashes in front of your eyes before you die,’ said Pratchett. ‘This is true. It’s called living.’



How great was this series of Unforgotten? Alongside the brilliant performances from a terrific ensemble cast, the genius of Chris Lang’s scripts was that each plot thread worked as a compelling human relationship drama, even without the murder element. The whodunnit reveal was also more persuasive than the first series – where ITV execs persuaded Lang to change the culprit – even if it did rely on Cassie (the fabulous Nicola Walker) having a bit of an out-of-character ‘Sherlock moment’. More please.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, February 16, 2017

(c) Waitrose Weekend