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All aboard a quite brilliant Coach Trip

I didn't realise it but, up until yesterday evening, my life was incomplete. A work in progress, basically.

For example, I'd never seen Coach Trip, and with good reason: it's on at five in the evening, a time when most sensible people are doing something . . . well, sensible.

Coach Trip is the opposite of sensible -- it's very silly, in fact. Yet it's a quite brilliant concept.

It takes a bunch of people (50 if you want to be picky about it), most of whom you'd be happy to die under the wheels of a bus while crossing the street to avoid, stuffs them like sardines into a coach and sends them off on a jaunt around Europe.

At the end of each day, the passengers vote off the least popular. It's kind of like a motorised Big Brother, but without a toilet to retreat to when the going gets tough.

I'm sure most of us have had numerous experiences of going on holiday and finding ourselves reluctantly locked into a temporary relationship with obnoxious people we normally wouldn't dream of entertaining.

Coach Trip takes all of those experiences and packs them into one tightly wound bundle.

They're a choice lot, the Coach Trip passengers.

First up are late middle-aged married couple Ray and Glenys, who describe themselves as "patriotic Brits".

Ray, in particular, is extremely suspicious of the rest of the world.

"We're very much British subjects and not Europeans," he says, proudly proclaiming his Britishness by wearing the kind of hideous beige jumpers you'd never come across in, say, Paris or Rome. Unless, of course, you should happen to bump into Ray on the street -- which is highly unlikely, since Ray is highly unlikely to be wandering around a hole like Paris or Rome.

"We fought two world wars to stay independent," he says, before adding that, when a Briton goes abroad, they're "an ambassador for their country". World War Three is imminent, I think.

Next up is Jenny, a young woman who favours black clothes and body piercings, and appears to be dying from embarrassment.

The source of much of Jenny's mortification is her mother and travelling companion, Anne, who's so thick she's virtually solidifying before our eyes.

Jenny chuckles nervously as Anne admits, "Really, I feel quite ignorant about Europe.

"I quite literally had to have a study of the map a few days ago to find these little countries."

Not that Jenny is any less gormless. "I haven't looked at a map since geography," she admits, "and that was a long time ago. I really don't know where anything is."

Also boarding are gay couple Tom and Jason, fitness fanatics Brenda and Madge, twentysomething university students Paul and Matt (quite possibly the best argument ever against third-level grants), "up for it" girls Jane and Jade, and -- far and away the best of all -- Danny and Carol, a long-married pair who look as bored with one another as a pair of traffic cones stuck in front the TV set watching Lark Rise to Candleford.

The whole transportable circus is presided over by tour guide Brendan, an ebullient character who's as bald as a boiled egg and as camp as Mosney.

Coach Trip is now into its fourth series. I can understand why.

It's the kind of thing five o'clock on Monday evenings were made for.

TOMORROW: Pat jumps for joy with Skippy: Australia's First Superstar (BBC4)

Stacey's Stars

Coach Trip ***


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