As the chill descends over the country, our TV habits seem determined to bring us to far warmer climes. The eagerly anticipated return of Hilary favourite Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents along with the more depressing What Happens in Kavos and Stacey Dooley Investigates… Magaluf have fuelled essay crises and post-tute relaxation alike. All three are absolutely magnificent. SS&SP especially has provided a tentpole for my week.
Why do these shows have such a hold on us? Do I live a life of such mundane mediocrity as to be forced to live vicariously through the adventures of Tom from Stoke on his first ever holiday? No. I watch these shows because, at heart, Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents represents the ultimate triumph of human decency and the human spirit. Watching the nihilistic depravity of the first episode of the season could have left me feeling pretty down about people in general. Then you are hit with the sucker punch. Almost inevitably, at the end of every episode, the parent and child see their bond restated, and the family is strengthened. We find out that, at heart, even after embarrassing herself on national television, all that Jemma really wants to do is to go to university and make her family proud.
All of this warm, fuzzy, optimistic feeling has been somewhat destroyed by What Happens in Kavos and Stacey Dooley’s investigation of Magaluf. Instead of seeing the somewhat sanitized version we see on SS&SP, we witness the rampant misogyny of ‘real life’ Kavos. I’m afraid that, despite containing some truly fantastic quotes, it has forever ruined SS&SP for me. Among the many disgusting sights of the show, including a warning to all men to never, ever, go for an STD check in Greece, we get treated to the delights of the booze cruise and the charming custom of necking a shot of piss after sleeping with the same girl three times. I’m never going to think a crewdate went ‘a bit mad’ again.
At least What Happens in Kavos showed us our hero, Daryl, the quixotic figure who is on a quest to lose his virginity on an island that, the promotional literature assures us, is almost impossible to leave without needing an STD check. Daryl is just about the best thing that could have happened to the show. Just as I despaired at the relentless destruction of my SS&SP habit, along came our bumbling hero. Oblivious to the fact that his vest might be the single biggest issue, he continues to, along with his mates, formulate strategy after strategy to get himself something. Unlike most of the ‘lads’ on SS&SP, Daryl is pretty sympathetic, he doesn’t go straight in for the misogyny and ends up being more than willing to be the butt of the jokes rather than preening and posturing (or, as the latest SS&SP shows, borrowing all your friend’s money then refusing to pay it back). Dooley’s show focuses on the resort staff, but she comes across as a standard appeal to the ‘yoof’ market, and although it is a pretty interesting way to spend an hour, it really confirms nothing that wasn’t already known. The section on hotel staff does a good job, though, of underlining the appalling conditions of staff in resorts. That said, I doubt very much that Dooley was attempting to spur resort staff into singing the song of angry men.
Why do shows about indulgent booze holidays become so popular around now? Because we all really need them? Because the snow is all well and good until your bike lock freezes? Probably. But also because watching people get drunk is still the best antidote to boredom.