The new series of ‘Benidorm’ will be hitting our screens tonight, Monday 11th – the eighth. I don’t think that anyone imagined it would be the roaring success that it has become when the first episode was filmed back in 2006 and aired on ITV in February 2007.
I for one certainly didn’t and remember hearing an advert on OCI radio – now sadly no more, looking for extras to appear on a new series which was going to be filmed here. Back then all of the extras were British ex-pats and filming for that first series took place after the summer, finishing from what I recall at the end of October or maybe it was the beginning of November.
Many had no idea who any of the cast were – only vaguely recognizing the likes of Johnny Vegas or Steve Pemberton, but that has certainly changed over the years and they are now all household names. Actor Jake Canuso has played the sexy Spanish barman – you’d never know that he wasn’t Spanish, from the very first episode and probably the most recognized out of all the cast.
The positive impact that the series has had over the years and economic benefits thanks to the success and popularity of the show are tremendous. Children have grown up with the series and are now coming here as adults to experience the wonders they have seen on the screen – thus creating tourists of the future.
During filming, over 100 cast and crew stay in Benidorm and the surrounding area, contributing generously to the local economy. Many holidaymakers try and coincide their stay here while filming is going on, in the hope of catching a glimpse or better still, a selfie with one of the cast members, instantly posting it onto social media.
The series is a little bit like marmite – you either love it or hate it but every time is is aired on television bookings for holidays to the resort go up, which can only be a good thing. The council have always been very accommodating with the production company, closing off roads when filming on location.
The cameo roles have always held much excitement, with everyone trying to guess which actors will be making a fleeting appearance. There have been so many now that it’s a wonder who is left – even the glam 70’s rock band Wizzard featured in the Christmas special, singing their appropriate hit ‘ I Wish it could be Christmas Every Day’. The late Cilla Black played herself in series 4, then there was Sheridan Smith - who coincidentally portrayed Cilla in a fantastic television drama of her early career last year, Sue Pollard, Matthew Kelly, Ken Morley, Denise Welch, John Challis – notably remembered for playing Boycie in ‘Only Fools & Horses’.
But the one that really hit the headlines was Hollywood screen legend Joan Collins, who made her first appearance in series 6 as Crystal Hennessy-Vass, CEO of the Solana group. She returned for series 7 and was once again back for this latest one – even the then Mayor Agustin Navarro went on set, to the rooftop terrace of the Madeira Centro Hotel to meet her.. The crowds vying for a glimpse was incredible and police were out in force keeping everyone at a distance.
The Garvey family left the show in the last series and everybody was left wondering if there would be another – as in many people’s eyes they were a pivotal part of the show. But continue it did and this new series, which started filming at the end of March features a new family, the Dawsons.
EastEnders star Shane Richie makes a guest appearance and it also sees the return of perma-tanned Madge – actress Sheila Reid. They filmed up at the Mirador in the Old Town on a number of occasions, down on the Levante beachfront at the Heartbreak bar with a bunch of very angry looking leather-clad bikers and also further down, holding a fancy dress party (look out for the nuns) and even did a scene with Johnny Vegas on the promenade in Albir.
A special screening of episode 1 took place on Dec 14 in London and many of the cast and crew attended, including Shane. Sadly some cast members were in panto around the country so couldn’t attend, but feedback of it was glowing. Many are already asking whether there will be a series 9. Writer Derren Litten has announced that he hasn’t been asked, but a number of cast members have already let slip on television shows that they will be back in Benidorm come March, so it looks like it may. The Sol Pelicanos will already be getting booked up, which is where the pool scenes are filmed, of die hard series fans hoping to bump into Mateo et al.