More chaos is about to hit the Spanish resort of Benidorm when the ITV comedy returns in the New Year (Thursday, Jan 2, 9pm).
What’s On TV went to the set of the Solana Hotel last summer to speak to Steve Pemberton, Siobhan Finneran and Sheila Reid – AKA the Garvey family – who told us what utter mayhem we can expect from the sixth series…
So what’s new for the Garveys this time in Benidorm?
Steve: “They come for their holidays every year but have a sticky start in that we don’t come through the airport without a hitch. Madge has brought some illegal tanning pills, though why she would need tanning pills I don’t know? We get into a fight in the line so we get pulled over and they say, ‘What’s this?’ Because Mick’s carrying the bag he gets done for it. Then the Garveys meet a new family, the Dykes, on holiday who’ve got a teenage son Tiger, and we’ve got a teenage son Michael. They go off together and cause all kinds of problems.”
Siobhan: “Yes, their teenage son leads our delightful, angelic teenage son into lots of trouble.”
Is there a lot of friction between the two families?
Siobhan: “Well there’s friction because of that.”
Steve: “Michael goes off with Tiger and ends up with a tattoo.”
Siobhan: “Yes, he gets drunk and has a tattoo. Our family blames them, they blame us…”
Where is Michael’s tattoo?
Siobhan: “Up his arm. We won’t reveal to you what it says. We’ll keep that for the series!”
Steve: “What Mick and Janice have said is, when we go home, he’ll have it removed. Although how the Garveys can afford to have tattoos removed who knows?!”
So are the Dykes a southern version of the Garveys?
Sheila: “They’re very different actually. There’s this real friction between them, whereas the Garveys’ friction is based on real love. I’m not sure theirs is.”
With the arrival of the Dykes, is there a north/south divide at the Solana this series?
Steve: “Yes, there’s definitely a north/south divide – but the Garveys love coming to Benidorm whereas when the Dykes arrived and they’re going, ‘Ooh where are we?’ You need that in the show. We’ve always had characters who don’t really like being in Benidorm and characters who love being there. The wife Tanya is like, ‘Why are we in this horrible place?’ But we end up rubbing along quite well for a bit, but there are always points of friction and fights.”
Siobhan: “Mick wants a peaceful life, really.”
Sheila: “Yes, he tries to smooth the waters a bit whereas Madge does the opposite. She’s stirring things between the two families? She’s sees it in her rights to do that!”
How easy is it to slip back into these well-loved characters?
Steve: “Pretty easy. We know them incredibly well now.”
Sheila: “It’s a bit like putting on an old overcoat. In my case, very old!”
Why do you think they’re so loved? The fans who holiday in Benidorm as the show is filming are absolutely crazy about them…
Sheila: “They love it. All ages, both sexes, it’s extraordinary. It seems to have touched a vein. Everyone calls me Madge! They like to identify themselves with the characters. Because we’re the normal family in the middle of it so that’s why they like to identify with them.”
Siobhan: “They love the banter and that family dynamic. There’s four of us here now, with Olly who plays Michael, and a lot of them do say, That’s just like people we know or our family on holiday. They believe the Garveys are real so they’re happy to go to the extremes with us!”
They must be shocked to see ‘Madge’ out of the mobility scooter?
Sheila: “They kind of take that on board now as well. They used to say ‘Ooh you talk posh!’ and all that, but nobody says that any more. The scooter thing has taken off to such an extent – even hen parties come out and dress up as Madge then scoot around Benidorm! It’s wonderful.”
So would you say you were very unlike Madge?
Siobhan: “My God! She’s the total opposite.”
Do you even smoke?
Sheila: “No, I used to. Madge says she doesn’t like pork in this series, but she loves bacon and she loves ham and sausages. So she likes pork really! I don’t eat even meat.”
Do you think if you met Madge, you’d be pals?
Sheila: “I’d find her quite scary, but I’d love her honesty and directness. She calls a spade a spade which is refreshing.
Steve: “And you’d get to borrow some of her clothes!”
Sheila: “What could be better than that?”
Steve: “When we go out, we do get all the Madges descending on us so you do get to see it all.”
Have you had many scenes with the guest stars like Joan Collins, Ken Morley and the Krankies?
Sheila: “We haven’t had much to do with them I’m afraid.”
Siobhan: “They keep us away from them for some reason we’re unaware of. We’ve not had any scenes with them. We looked at Joan across the pool.”
Steve: “I went and said hello to her. She was very friendly.”
Is there anything that still shocks you in the scripts?
Siobhan: “It’s still hard to keep a straight face a lot of the time.”
Sheila: “I had quite a surprise this time when we had the read-through. Something very different happens which is sad in a way.”
Is Madge still dealing with bereavement, after the loss of her husband Mel a few years back?
Sheila: “She is inside yes, very much so, because he was absolutely the one for her and always will be, despite her dalliances.”
Siobhan: “Actually we’re all still dealing with it. We miss actor Geoffrey Hutchings very much. He was amazing to work with.”
Steve: “A real loss from the show.”
Do you all still like coming out to Benidorm or do you miss home?
Siobhan: “We all miss home as we’ve all got families there. But we’ve got a great love for it here in Benidorm now.”
Do you bring your families here?
Siobhan: “No because they’re at school. In the school holidays when everything’s 20 times more expensive, they come out then.”
Steve: “They love coming here and it’s nice that they’re as familiar with it as we are. My family have had eight holidays here and they enjoy it.”
Janice has gone blonde in this series…
Siobhan: “Not this blonde. I’ve always had big blonde streaks in. It’s blonder now. It was my choice. It wasn’t quite this blonde when I arrived in March.”
Steve: “I’d quite like to go blonde too – just like Eminem.”
How long does it take to get the fake tan off?
Shelia: “This year we’ve got a different one so it shouldn’t be quite so bad. I do a lot of scrubbing and exfoliating. It does take a while.”
What do your family think?
Sheila: “They’re used to it now. It used to be quite alarming.”
The series goes from strength to strength, doesn’t it?
Steve: “Yes I think it’s quietly risen every year. You don’t get hit over the head with it. I know it’s on ITV2 every other day which is different, but I always think like Mrs Brown’s Boys and Miranda on BBC get a lot more attention. But Benidorm has constantly had those viewing figures rising each year. We don’t do lots of the big chat shows and I think that’s good really. You need the Joan Collins-type guest stars coming in to generate some interest – but it’s word of mouth that’s made this show.”
Sheila: “And you really need to follow the story. If you just dip in, it doesn’t really work. There’s an ongoing story so you need to watch the whole series so you’ll understand what it’s about.”
It must have been nice to be in the show from the beginning?
Sheila: “Yes it is nice.
Siobhan: “We wouldn’t be immodest to say it wouldn’t work without the Garveys.”
Steve: “It’s down to Derren who’s written and created it. He’s given us these parts and he’s the story behind the show, it’s not us. The last series had a big shift towards the people working in the hotel, so this time you needed to do something to bolster the guests. And having the Dykes has given us someone to argue with. This series, there’s an awful lot about Michael and how his mum and dad cope with him. We’ll have this in real-life soon, as both Siobhan and I have teenagers. You’re letting go in a way. How many more holidays does he want to have with his parents? My son is 15 same as Oliver who plays Michael.”
Is there more of Michael getting drunk?
Siobhan: “Yes, there’s a bit more of that. Janice doesn’t have any scraps this year though. No head butting. I was nowhere actually near her in reality for that scene, I was head butting into thin air. It was just exhausting. A fight sequence can take hours.”