“I never do housework. It’s a sort of rule of mine,” says Miriam Margolyes jovially, watching on as her new celebrity housemates scrub pots and pans, sweat cascading down their faces.
No, this isn’t I’m a Celeb or Big Brother — but a three-part BBC2 reality show (or travel documentary, if that’s more your type of thing) The Real Marigold Hotel, which sees eight famous famous face, all of retirement age, living together in Jaipur for three weeks.
The group is trying to find out whether India is a place they might want to live out their remaining years. Everyone who’s seen the dreamy Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has wondered exactly the same thing, so it’s a clever idea to get this rather eclectic bunch of OAPs to try it out for us first. Even if Judi Dench and Bill Nighy won’t be making an appearance.
Instead, joining Harry Potter actress Margolyes on this charming and funny travel series is dancer Wayne Sleep, former Time Lord Sylvester McCoy, Catchprase presenter Roy Walker, chef Rosemary Shrager, darts champ Bobby George, singer Patti Boulaye and ex-BBC newsreader Jan Leeming.
Margolyes is hugely entertaining, unashamedly stating that she wants to pay people to do things for her because she absolutely doesn’t want to do any chores. Ever. “I’ll make an appearance in the kitchen,” she says in her deceptively innocent-sounding tone, “to give the illusion that I was prepared to help. Which I wasn’t.
“But you have to pretend, or people take a dim view.”
And she might not be helpful, but she’s certainly honest. “I do fart, ” she adds. “And they have to accept that. I’ll always say that I’m going to.”.
It seems almost reasonable when she puts it like that.
And from wind to wonderment, Sleep revels in the spirituality of Hinduism, while Time Lord Sylvester McCoy seems to have a jolly good time, telling the locals about the history of Doctor Who; meanwhile Shrager, who has just set up two businesses in the UK, is amazed by how meditation calms her anxiety.
But it’s not all friendly locals, wonderful food and early morning yoga -— this is entertaining TV, after all. They also have their tempers tested when catching trains, seeing chickens having their throats slit, battling intense heat and navigating terrible traffic. This isn’t a reality TV show of high drama, scandal and tabloid headlines -— but it is a warm, interesting and funny look at eight OAPs navigating a new culture together, embracing communal living.
And some manage it better than others. “I have some Vegemite, says Margolyes, producing a tube from her luggage. “I’m not going to share it.”
The Real Marigold Hotel is on Tuesday 26th January at 9pm on BBC2
Radio Times Travel offer: See India’s Golden Triangle, Delhi, tigers at Ranthambore National Park, the Taj Mahal and much more