Strangers on a Plane review – so dim it makes Made in Chelsea seem like Newsnight

Take five strangers, fly them to Benidorm and get them to each curate a day of entertainment – it must have been a desperate morning at the ideas meeting when this was commissioned

Wyen is a 33-year-old singer and makeup entrepreneur from London. She also talks about herself in the third person. “My idea of a nightmare holiday would include camping. She’s definitely not doing that. Safari – she’s definitely not doing that either.”

Another thing Wyen definitely isn’t doing is successfully hosting a day of fun-related shenanigans for four strangers, even though that is her assignment on a new show so unremittingly dim it makes Made in Chelsea seem like Newsnight.

Strangers on a Plane takes five strangers, flies them to Benidorm and tasks each to curate a day of entertainment for the others. At the end of five days, the contestant who most entertains the others wins the coveted prize: another week in Benidorm – or Benners, as the presenter unaccountably calls it – with a loved one.

Essentially, it’s Come Dine with Me with less food, more sun and the same sarky bants from the presenter. It also bears the hallmarks of a lean morning at Channel 4’s ideas meeting. Celebrity Transplant Swap, Embarrassing Bidets With Kevin McCloud, Tom Daley’s Dive Pool Karaoke and even Monkey Tennis, presumably, weren’t on the agenda while this was green lit. Its title makes me wish I was watching Samuel L Jackson battle snakes at 35,000ft.

Wyen begins the day by offering fellow contestants champagne on a yacht. Lisa, 51, from Doncaster, snootily points out that it’s really cava on a fishing boat. But then Lisa’s judgment may not be all that: she tells us that her friends call her the Princess, raising the possibility she hasn’t considered they might not mean it as a compliment.

Wakefield waiter Jason, 37, jumps into the sea mid-cruise – that certainly would have been my escape plan – and later complains that Wyen, as host, should have joined him in the water. Which suggests, early doors, Jason has got a hair trigger when it comes to making unjustified complaints.

Glaswegian barber Exaucé, 21, claims to be bored on this excursion, probably because his fellow contestants look old enough to be his parents or grandparents. Sixtysomething Windsor publican Ray seems, alone among these incisively selected grotesques, easy to please, even when Wyen calls him Ray-Ray, which would have made me unleash the disembowelling cutlass.

Wyen compounds these failures by taking a suite at the five-star hotel she’s chosen, leaving only twin rooms for those she needs to impress. The appeal of the show – such as it is – involves watching five Brits who clearly didn’t get the memo about game-theory machiavellian strategising that every other reality-gameshow contestant, from Love at First Sight to Love Island, imbibed with their mother’s milk.

At least Wyen leaves a gift on each bed. Unfortunately, though, it is a T-shirt featuring a photograph of Wyen. Jason examines his, deciding to regift it as a duster for his mum.

Matters, thankfully, turn unpleasant during the evening’s entertainment. After a blah-looking meal at an Italian restaurant (you know what’s good to eat in Spain, Wyen? Spanish food), she whisks her new mates to a club. Jason, who may well be able to pick a quarrel with a napkin, kicks off because Exaucé is laughing – possibly at Jason’s moves. Like Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind, Jason flounces with aplomb. “He did try to ruin my vibe,” says Exaucé evenly.

Wyen takes the flounce as personal betrayal, saying: “I’m not going to let one clown stop the show. This is my day, Wyen’s day, and you’re going to do what I came to do.” As a host Wyen is what Basil Fawlty is to the hospitality sector – or Matt Hancock to professionalism.

Wyen concludes the soiree by serenading contestants from the club’s stage. Recall Natasia Demetriou’s Sophie singing to guests at the Annual Haringey Letting awards in Stath Lets Flats, though less charming, and you’ll get the idea. What happens in Benidorm, unacceptably, doesn’t stay in Benidorm.

Amazingly, Wyen’s hosting skills earn her 75 out of a possible 100 points from her fellow contestants. Jason sends her an impeccably passive-aggressive message: “We know you. But do you know us?” I’m pretty sure Wyen does’t care about whether the other contestants know her. Rather, she’s plotting her revenge, Benidorm style: “Now I can go and be a brat on their days.” To be fair, that does sound mildly diverting. Until Channel 4 commissions Monkey Tennis, this will have to do.

  • Strangers on a Plane aired on Channel 4 and is now on All 4.


Stuart Jeffries

The GuardianTramp

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