Sometimes a programme so derivative comes along you really want to hate it. The Real Marigold Hotel is just that. The pitch meeting probably went: “Lets take the plot of a popular film, replace the likes of Dame Judi and Dame Maggie with more affordable and available actors and do it for real. It will be a cross between Celebrity Big Brother (but harder to leave the house), I’m a Celebrity and It A’int Half Hot Mum.” The amazing thing is that it works.
In episode one we saw our new residents settling into life in India to see if they could spend their retirement out there. Age is important to this programme. When the celebrities appear their age is on screen for all to see and the commentary always refers to them as “OAP’s” not “celebrities”. The group seems to have bonded really well (probably much to the annoyance of the producers) but they have already shown their true colours. Rosemary Shrager is the bossy one; Patti Boulaye the glamorous one; Miriam Margolyes the mischievous one; Jan Leeming the refined one; Wayne Sleep is the mystical one; Sylvester McCoy the eccentric one; Roy Walker is the funny one and Bobby George is the other one.
During the first few days they got to grips with Yoga; shopping, including seeing how they kill chickens (or in my case not seeing as I looked away); and entertaining and being entertained Indian style. There was something innately charming about seeing Bobby George using his considerable size and a walking stick to try and stop the traffic so that Miriam could make it to the public toilets for a wee (which were described by her as “vivid”. I assume she meant the toilets not her wee. Although it was hot and she may have been dehydrated. That makes your wee vivid. I‘ve just realised that I am now discussing Professor Sprout’s urine. Time to move on).
The idea that you have to use celebrities to tell a story instead of real people slightly galls me. But celebs or not these programmes live or die by the casting and the characters and with these eight they have got a great mix of British eccentrics who bring to life the idea of foreign retirement. I did wonder if anyone from the “Royal Variety Charity” was watching. (This is the charity that supports elederly and infirm members of the entertainment business and are responsible for the Royal Variety Performance every year, but don’t hold that against them.) They have a retirement home in Twickenham for old thesps. I’m sure some accountant is thinking “now if we sold that and moved the residents to India…”. Well if it’s good enough for Dame Judi.