TV

A blast of Benidorm will make everything seem sunny

Lucy Sweet came late to the joys of Benidorm, but the show puts a big smile on her face

Benidorm cast

The cast of Benidorm. Image: ITV/Shutterstock

I don’t deal very well with stress. Although I appear calm on the outside, even when at rest my default state is constant, bubbling, nail-biting anxiety. I have the amazing ability to worry about everything all at once, from global warming, nuclear war and brain tumours to getting food poisoning from a packet of chicken that was opened more than 24 hours ago.

So, when I encounter a drop of actual stress, usually in the form of something earth-shatteringly minor, I MELT. I screech, bang about and generally boil with rage. Or I cry pathetically at nothing until someone else has to step in and try and figure out what’s the matter with me, like one of those remotely controlled plastic babies they give to the couples on Love Island

Most traditional ways to reduce stress don’t help, and my phone is a graveyard of redundant meditation apps. The only thing that works for me is a long bath, but with energy prices the way they are, each one is now costing me about £300. (Oh, and if you tell me to go running or join a gym I will grow scales, ascend to the heavens and a blow jets of fire at you.)

However, my niece, who is 15, came to stay last week and showed me an antidote to stress that has worked better than Calm, Headspace or white noise machines. Weirdly, it turns out all Gen Z really wants is Tim Healy in a wig singing That Don’t Impress Me Much, and I can understand why. Yes, thanks to her I am snoofling up whole seasons of Benidorm like vodka and oranges in an all-inclusive swim-up bar – and it’s bringing me so much joy, it’s absurd. Now, I know some people are late to the party when it comes to watching TV shows, but I am *checks watch* 16 years late for this. I never watched it, believing it to be a crap straw donkey stuffed with stereotypes. Crass, racist, homophobic, fatphobic, transphobic, and about as funny as an after-dinner speech by Jim Davidson.

But now I’m deeply ashamed of my former snobbery, because OH MY GOD, I LOVE IT. It’s like a scene in the Rovers written by Victoria Wood. Outrageous and silly, viscerally true, proudly working class and stuffed to the gunnels with some of Britain’s best actors (with a guest appearance from Robin Askwith). 

I love grim, permatanned Madge on her mobility scooter, being compared to Touché Turtle (try looking that up on TikTok, kids). Her ancient leathery beau, Mel, who is constantly almost dying, Johnny Vegas as Geoff, Lancashire’s indoor hang-gliding champion, Donald and Jacqueline Stewart, swingers extraordinaires… I laugh like a drain at it, and I am 100 per cent invested in all the characters, even when they’re awful – which they frequently are. I even cried when Mick got the terrible pub singer at Neptune’s Bar to sing a song to Janice and then turned up with a bunch of knackered chrysanths to say sorry for being an arse during a day trip to a waterfall. You don’t get that level of visceral, true-to-life drama on HBO Max, do you?

Maybe my teenage niece likes it because it’s a foul-mouthed gobby relic from times gone by, when people said and did extremely cancellable things and got away with it. Maybe she just loves Tim Healy and his dulcet tones. Or maybe it’s because every episode is like a little mini package holiday away from our beleaguered, stressed out, post-pandemic brains. 

All l know is that when I hear that jaunty Benidorm theme tune, all thoughts of nuclear war, global warming, tumours and salmonella go out of the window. They should make Benidorm available on the NHS – maybe with a free cocktail and a burger thrown in for good measure. 

Benidorm is on Netflix

Lucy Sweet is a freelance journalist

@lucytweet1

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play

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