Escape the Cold with Some Sunny Telly Holidays


Ben Miller in mystery series "Death in Paradise" (Photo: BBC)
Does the current deep freeze have you wishing for warmer climes?  Have you and yours succumbed to cabin fever yet?  If so, I have some suggestions for British television series that will transport you with their sunny seascapes and tropical breezes. 

Yes, you read that correctly.  I am talking about Britain, that rainy island just across the Atlantic. The following shows are British through and through even when the setting is not.  So slather on your sun cream and set up your deck chair because this list has been compiled to help you thaw your poor frozen mind and body.

Mad Dogs. Four middle-aged school friends from England travel to the Mediterranean island of Majorca with plans to vacation at their wealthy schoolmate Alvo’s place. The island is beautiful and the villa is perfect for a guys’ getaway, but Alvo’s volatile mood puts the other men on edge. Their apprehension quickly escalates when their host is murdered in front of them and they realize they are tangled up in a dangerous game they don’t understand. 

Mad Dogs Trailer

Starring John Simm, Philip Glenister and Marc Warren (who all appeared in State of Play and Life on Mars together, by the way), Mad Dogs has enough brilliant sunshine to banish your seasonal affective disorder. But if that doesn’t get your heart rate up, the psychological thrills certainly will. I watched series one of Mad Dogs online a few years ago, but at this time, the only way to see it appears to be purchasing the Region 1 DVD. Series One and Two are now available for pre-order.

Benidorm. If we take a ferry from Majorca across the Mediterranean Sea to the White Coast of Spain, we’ll find ourselves at a once popular British tourist destination, the resort town of Benidorm. This sitcom of the same name takes place at the Solana Hotel which offers all-inclusive holiday packages ideal for families on a budget or just anyone who’s not fond of parting with their money.

Despite the warm, sunny days and the occasional womanizing Spaniard barman, the guests at Solana might as well be in UK and apparently that’s why they continue to return year after year. Surrounded by British staff and fellow tourists, an endless stream of Anglo-friendly nosh and the same cheesy entertainment they’d get back home at a working man’s club, the biggest draw by far is the sun bathing/pool area with the swim-up bar. 

Benidorm - Pool Clip

Benidorm features a recurring ensemble cast including Siobhan Finneran (Downton Abbey), Steve Pemberton (The League of Gentlemen) and comedian Johnny Vegas as a self-professed Lancashire pub quiz champion called The Oracle. In Benidorm, it never rains and basic accommodations are sultry at best. Other than watching clips on YouTube, Region 2 DVD is your only other option at this time.

Death in Paradise. Stodgy DI Richard Poole (Ben Miller) of the London Metropolitan Police arrives on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint-Marie in order to solve just one murder case, that of a fellow British policeman.  Unlike many of his fellow countrymen, sand, sea and sun doesn’t hold much appeal for Poole. Unfortunately for the detective, he proceeds to solve a number of nearly unsolvable crimes during his “temporary” tenure making him more valuable to the Saint-Marie constabulary than the police force back in England. Despite his misgivings and dislike for the humid climate, this tropical island paradise becomes DI Poole’s new home. 

Death in Paradise - Trailer (Totally Serialized 2012)

It has already been announced that Miller is leaving Death in Paradise and will be replaced in 2014 by My Family’s Kris Marshall.  If Caribbean breezes are your cup of tea, both seasons of this series are available for pre-order on Amazon. In addition, some PBS affiliates air Death in Paradise as part of their British mystery schedule so check your local listings for dates and times. (Note from Lacy: Tuesdays on WETA UK, local DC folks!) 

The Café. Set in the seaside resort town of Weston-super-Mare on the southwest coast of England near Bristol, The Café is a sitcom about…well, a café, of course. Cyril’s is a beachfront establishment run by three generations of women with Carol Porter (Ellie Haddington) being the driving force behind salvaging the family business. And though the café may not draw the widest clientele in the area, it has some delightfully quirky and dedicated regulars. 

The Cafe Trailer - Sky1

If, like me, your idea of a beach holiday is less balmy and more temperate, The Café may be all you need to stop you from going snow blind. This series has Royle Family ties as it is co-written by and stars Ralf Little (put-upon younger brother, Anthony Royle) and was co-directed by Craig Cash who played the sweet, but dim, Dave Best. Series one of The Café is available to stream exclusively on Hulu Plus and may be just the incentive I need to push me back into paying for this streaming service once again. (Another note from Lacy who is apparently awfully chatty today: Also check with your local PBS station, as many may have access to this comedy on their schedules as well. It currently airs on our WETA UK channel.)

An Idiot Abroad. This may seem a strange choice, but Karl Pilkington’s many journeys around the globe include quite a few downright sweltering destinations.  Engineered by his sadistic “friends” Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Pilkington’s travels to warmer climes include, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico, India, Thailand, South Africa/Uganda, the Amazon, Israel and Jordan where he is given the opportunity to ride camels across the desert with a Bedouin tribe…with mixed success at most. 

Camels' Broken Down - Idiot Abroad

Watch Pilkington complain and sweat simultaneously and you might start to feel much better about your frigid situation for the time being. All three seasons of An Idiot Abroad can be ordered on DVD through Netflix or streamed on Amazon Instant Video. It is also periodically broadcast on the Science Channel.  Check listings for the next Idiot Abroad marathon.

I hope these recommendations help cure your winter blahs.  If you could flee the cold and snow where would you choose to go?