Revisiting Spain’s sunshine soaps

LAST UPDATED: 14 Aug, 2012 @ 14:19
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Revisiting Spain’s sunshine soaps

By Mason Jones

MEMORIES of dodgy sets and bad acting have plagued the name Eldorado for over 20 years. Yet surprise, surprise, it emerges that thousands of nostalgic fans want the Andalucia-set sunshine soap back.

As revealed in our last issue, the BBC has been inundated with letters and emails demanding a return for the beleaguered show that was canned after just one year, despite ratings of almost 12 million viewers at the end of its run.

As it turns out it would not actually be all that hard to bring back the fictitious village of Los Barcos, as the entire set still stands proud on the outskirts of Coin.

It is certainly proving a relishing prospect for former cast members, including Julia Fernandez, who told the Olive Press this week: “I would love it, I think it’s a terrific idea.”

The actress, who played feisty teenager Nessa Lockhead, continued: “I loved living in Spain, the food, the people and the general way of life. Especially the sunshine as I function much better in the warm weather than in the rain.

I loved that we would all meet up late and go out for dinner at amazing tapas restaurants. It would be great if it came back.”

So with talk of the Spanish sitcom re-appearing on British TV, we take a look at some of the other times Espana has graced the UK small screen…

Benidorm: The most famous TV show in Spain is currently Benidorm, the ITV hit that joins a group of typical ‘Brits abroad’ at an all-inclusive resort. With families from hell, middle-aged swingers and sleazy waiters; the comedy has become one of Britain’s most popular shows since its debut in 2007. Filmed mostly at the Sol Pelicanos Ocas Hotel, in Benidorm, it also uses some of the town’s other tourist hang-outs like Morgan’s Tavern.

Four in a Bed: Expat B&B owners went head to head in February on the Channel 4 show. The competition recently featured Jed and Amanda Filmer who own La Tartana hotel in La Herradura, which was rather spectacularly criticised. In classic Come Dine With Me fashion, the sarcastic but hilarious Dave Lamb narrates as the four couples squabble among themselves.

Marbella Belles: Long before The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE) hit the Costa del Sol, a similar gang of bronzed and bleached-haired Brits inhabited the bars of Puerto Banus. These champagne-fuelled ladies of leisure left the UK to spend their days cruising down the golden mile for the hit ITV show in 2007. Always on the look-out for Mr Right, Louise Truelove (above) and co enjoyed nothing more than partying, pampering and plastic surgery. Sadly it didn’t prove to be a hit back home.

Duty Free: The British sitcom written by Eric Chappell and Jean Warr, aired on ITV from 1984 to 1986. Although set on the Costa del Sol, the show was filmed almost entirely in Leeds! The comedy series featured two couples, the Pearces and the Cochrans who met while holidaying in Marbella. A mixture of sun, sea and infidelity gained the programme viewing records at the time.

Towie’s The Only Way is Marbs:
Marbella was overrun with Vajazzles and Vodka last month when the ITV stars arrived to film their annual summer special in Spain. Almost instantly breaking the producer’s rules of not indulging in too much booze, the gang attended a champagne spray party with rapper Tinchy Stryder. Their time on the Costa del Sol had another hiccup when some of the cast complained about being overworked and underpaid. They were obviously feeling the stress of sitting on banana boats in the sun.

The Garage: Scottish expat Jock Campbell runs a Marbella garage, and runs it like a true Scotsman. The show, which ran for three series on The Discovery Channel, from 2005, followed the team of British mechanics as they fixed cars, adjusted to life in Spain and tried to cope with Jock. With a passion for automobiles and a sharp tongue, Jock’s love of expletives made Gordon Ramsay sound like a choir boy as he roamed around the garage reminding his staff who is boss.

Doctor Who: The cast and crew of the popular sci-fi show arrived in the Tabernas Desert earlier this year to shoot a western themed episode. Time Lord actor Matt Smith blasted bad guys in front of the same mock-up bank, saloons, and Victorian style houses that Clint Eastwood and other stars of the Spaghetti Western did throughout the 60s and 70s.

When it comes to cooking there have been numerous shows set here, including…

Jamie Oliver Does Andalucia where Jamie spent three days in and around the Serrania visiting the area’s best butchers, tapas bars and pastelerias before cooking an incredible street paella for 500 people in the village of Benaojan. A generally disappointing show lacking substance, the chef was however, blown away by Ronda’s Almocabar restaurant, insisting: “I swear to God, these Spanish really know how to cook.”

Sam and Sam Clark of Moro have done shows based on the cooking here, while most recently Rick Stein’s Spain undertook a much more in depth and watchable four-part series on the country, ending up in Andalucia, in a rental house in Casarabanela, in case anyone is interested.

But the true doyenne of cookery shows, Keith Floyd did numerous programmes on the country over his illustrious career, including Floyd Around the Med and Floyd on Spain. Floyd celebrated the great traditions of Spanish food and wines that have influenced cooking throughout the world.

20 COMMENTS

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  1. UK TV is crying out for some escapism, ‘Sun, Sea and S….’, but close enough to home to be almost tangible.

    Maybe a new Eldorado could air straight after ITV’s Loose Women, clashing with Home and Away on Channel 5 could prove a sunny success for BBC1! For those not around it could repeated on BBC1 or BBC3 late evening.

    Whoever has the courage to bring this back will be an overnight star!

    There’s a melting pot of stories on the Costa. It’s always had a strong connection with the UK, almost a Little Britain. I visited the set a few years ago with my wife Sheila, we bumped into Larry Hagman and his son who were filming next door, it felt like being in the California hills.

  2. Stuart P : Agreed, but it really needs to air after the 9 P.M. watershed. There’s bound to be effin’ and jessin’. There’d be no credibility of humour and drama without it. Not sure it should be called Eldorado though, perhaps it would be better to put some distance between that and a new concept. There’s certainly no end of potentially funny, sad, tragic, surreal, criminal angles in the expat world to go at. If we must have a Spanish title, how about “Extranjeros”?

  3. Stefanjo, basically your saying it should be sold as a PRIMETIME show?
    How about?
    Little England
    Marbellablue
    Rado
    Marbella
    Goldenmile
    SPF 25
    Marbella Project
    Sun Seekers
    Brits in Spain
    Brits Abroad
    Southern Spain
    Sotogrande
    Banus
    The New Eldorado

    ?!?

  4. Davina: you’re right, Extranjeros does sound alien, it means foreigners. Point is, there’s more than just Brits pitching up on the Costas (though that should be the focus) We’ve got the sinister Russians, lots of enigmatic Chinese people, the dour Germans, frosty Swedes, eastern europeans in leather jackets and of course, not least, the lovely Spanish people themselves. There’s no end of stereotypes to exploit. Yes, Benidorm is cheap, that’s its attraction. It’s good old British seaside toilet humour transplanted to a sunnier clime. Twenty-odd “Carry On” films can’t be wrong.
    P.M/C : Quite like the “New Eldorado” Or, to give it a bit of panache “Nuevo Eldorado”. Maybe “S.P.F.25” should be “S.P.F.50” in these skin-conscious days!

  5. Stephen: Your little touch of pedantry has unwittingly created a new entity. Eldorado was a bit dreary (honest!) and “Benidorm” is more than a little bit daft. So you have invented the SOAPCOM! Well done, just what we need!

  6. Dreary!…. Have u seen the stuff on at the mo! Even the One Show ruined a potential fantastic show tonight. It was a Dallas special with JR in the studio…10 minutes into the show they inserted a totally different story on ‘Catapillars!’ MADNESS!!

  7. Just caught up with your post, Davina. I worked on “Coronation Street” as well as “Eldorado”. I thought “The Road to Coronation Street” was excellent, a very accurate portrayal of the atmosphere at Granada Television in that era (although I started there a few years later). I’m not sure whether a similar treatment of “Eldorado” would work. There was plently of behind-the-scenes drama but some of those involved, like BBC1 controller Jonathan Powell, are still in denial of the truth. And the reason “The Road to Coronation Street” appealed to the audience was that the programme is still running after all these years, which “Eldorado” obviously is not.

    P.S. stefanjo – not pedantic, accurate!

  8. @PManchester – the original working title for the show was actually ‘Little England’ which then became Eldorado – My father-in-law James Todesco was a producer on the show and actually built the whole set, along with his partner John Dark (Casino Royal, Shirley Valentine, etc). The concept was great, but the timing was a little off, along with the location. It was originally going to be Dynasty in Marbella, with the more up market locations being used, but Verity Lambert basically wanted Eastenders in the sun; this was the main problem with the show, along with the fact that 80% of the cast were just people and not actors…you could see this when watching it…

    Having said that, it is a very nostalgic piece of television and is due for a return; my wife and I worked for Living in Spain TV (2007-2008) and we tried to convince them to broadcast the whole series, as it was VERY cheap to get from the BBC – I truly believe that this would have been the saving of the channel, which is no longer with us :*(

    The Olive Press should start a campaign to get it back on TV, even if in the repeat form…

  9. A little bit misleading, Alan. I can’t be certain at which stage the various parties became involved, but to dwell on the Todesco/Dark partnership with a mere mention of Verity Lambert (without any reference to her long and distinguished list of credits) and to totally ignore Julia Smith and Tony Holland (creators of EastEnders) who were the major creative force behind the Little England/Eldorado concept (flawed though it may have been) is to rewrite history.

    And your statement “80% of the cast were just people and not actors” is quite simply untrue. The vast majority of the cast were experienced professional actors, although some were disadvantaged by having to perform in English which was not their first language. A handful of the younger cast members were without experience but most of those did not survive the first few months of the programme.
    I agree there were misjudgements as far as the concept is concerned but it is totally unfair to blame the actors who did their best in the circumstances.

    • It’s not misleading at all! James and John took this idea to the BBC. I also worked on it as an AD and whilst some of the main cast were professional actors, many were not and this came across in the delivery on screen. In addition to this we had MAJOR sound issues filming in the set properties, which was also detrimental to the production.

      It could have gone on to becoming a very successful production, as it had turned the corner and was building good viewing figures. Sadly, the BBC pulled the plug and the rest is history.

      I’m aware of the others involved in the production and I’m FULLY aware of the programmes history; we (the estate) still retain all of the legal paperwork, including letters/faxes to the BBC introducing the idea at the outset.

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