Wednesday, August 31, 2005

All For Fun

'Hi-de-Hi' was one of the most successful sit-coms of the 1980s, and repeats of the show continue to attract decent audiences whenever shown. Which must be quite annoying for Channel 4, who don't even own the rights to 'Carry On Camping'. So what do you do if you're short of your own laugh-a-minute holiday camp comedy? Well, you create a new reality show of course, populate it with lookalikes of the Hi-de-Hi cast, and call it 'Wakey Wakey Campers'. If it were any more plagiarising, the BBC could sue.

But until they do, we're being treated to four weeks of fun in the sun at 'The Sunshine Camp', a supposedly authentic 1960s holiday camp, complete with Moroccan themed bar, classical ballroom and outdoor swimming pool. As one of the fifty modern holidaymakers sent there for a fortnight said, "Fiji is one of the most beautiful places on earth". Unfortunately the Sunshine Camp's on the Isle of Wight. And the swimming pool's not heated.

But on the plus side, the happy campers get to experience life in the 1960s, when holidays were, according to the Channel 4 website, about "all-join-in-jolliness". Which translates as donkey derbies, glamorous granny contests, and lessons on wearing a knotted hanky, all under the watchful eye of a Ted Bovis impersonator, a would-be Gladys Pugh, and a man who'd give Clive Dempster a run for his money. We've all seen fiction which is based on real life. Well this is reality based on fiction. We're only a dippy chalet maid away from a stolen format.

For their part, the campers started their holiday in reasonably good spirits, with 92-year-old Elizabeth stating "I'm happy and I'm in good health. Nothing to complain about". Of course, that was before she arrived at the Sunshine Camp. Twenty four hours and a couple of sack races later, and the smile was beginning to fade.

Nevertheless, the group were cheerfully welcomed by the Pink Coats (who sound like a gay cabaret act), and treated to a speech by the general manager, Major Vernon Rees (there's a showbiz name if ever I heard one), who had clearly mis-read the word 'Sunshine' as 'Concentration', and chose to spend half an hour laying down the (many) rules of the camp, and promising to run a tight ship. I expected him to continue by outlining his policy on escape attempts, but instead he introduced us to the official camp greeting: "Fun For All, All For Fun", a catchphrase which was instantly paraphrased by one camper as "All For Fun, All Fuck Off". The holidaymaker in question clearly hadn't read the rule on foul language.

Having been well and truly welcomed (with an iron fist), Ted Bovis lookalike, Buster, led the campers in a sing-a-long rendition of 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star', before packing the kids off to bed in broad daylight, and allowing the adults to act as adults... by playing a game which involved passing a balloon down the line between your knees. Most ended up drinking heavily, presumably to dull the pain, before staggering back to their chalets with alcohol poisoning.

There were some minor disturbances after lights-out, but the Major dealt with them efficiently, responding to the personal abuse by stating "I have no idea what a twat is". To be honest, I wasn't surprised. He didn't look like the kind of man who gets out much. He did brazenly call someone a c*** at one point, but to be honest the missing letters there were 'lod', so it wasn't that offensive.

Next morning the campers arose early to attend an early morning keep-fit class run by Kerry (think Sylvia from Hi-de-Hi). This basically involved flailing your arms about whilst repeating the mantra "I must, I must, I must improve my bust", and from the look of Kerry, she's done a fair few self-improvement classes in her time. From there it was on to the Sunshine Camp Olympics, featuring a one-legged sack race, a three-legged race for couples, and a mini assault course. Which is more exciting than you might think when you've got a 92-year-old taking part. One shout of "Fun For All", and I thought she was going to peg out.

Of course, 92 year old Elizabeth didn't win - that would be asking too much. No, the Sunshine Camp Olympics were eventually won by Janet. Who's 87.

Ultimately though, the mood in the camp was a little low, with most of the guests finding it difficult to adjust to the regimented form of the 1960s holiday. But hey, they haven't experienced the full range of entertainment yet. During the course of the programme we heard from the likes of Stan Boardman, Mike Reid and Jimmy Tarbuck, all of whom had been holiday camp entertainers in the 1960s. So let's just say the worst is yet to come.