James Walton

Old hat | 25 January 2018

Plus: a catch up with one of the best sitcoms around

These days, when it comes to people who used to be on the telly, the answer to the classic newspaper question ‘Where are they now?’ tends to be a fairly predictable one: they’re still on the telly — if, that is, you look carefully enough. They’re also quite likely to be travelling abroad with a few of their peers while wearing a large hat.

The BBC started the trend — possibly even the genre — with The Real Marigold Hotel. ITV has provided the weirdest example so far, with Gone to Pot, in which the likes of Christopher Biggins and Pat Butcher from EastEnders investigated the legalisation of marijuana in California by smoking bongs and giggling a lot. Nonetheless, it’s Channel 5 that’s proving most assiduous in squeezing out cunning variations on the theme — with A Celebrity Taste of Italy, Celebrity 5 Go Motorhoming, Celebrity 5 Go in Search of Santa Claus and now Costa Del Celebrity (Friday) all featuring a bunch of fondly remembered oldies in extravagant headgear, who journey about having little prearranged adventures and, for the most part, hanging on determinedly to their well-established personas.

Sure enough, for example, in this Spanish version of the franchise, Ainsley Harriott is still unaccountably amused by almost everything, even if his smile now seems a little more frozen and his chuckles a little more effortful. Vicki Michelle from ’Allo ’Allo! remains heroically committed to being what used to be known as ‘saucy’. Anne Diamond and Nick Owen do their best to join in with the prevailing jollity, but can’t help displaying a fair amount of head-girl/head-boy swottiness.

The centrepiece of Friday’s final episode was a visit to a family-run vineyard where Vicki promised they’d be ‘getting down and dirty’.

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