When eight celebrity pensioners were sent off to see whether they could get a better retirement in India, it wasn’t obvious that The Real Marigold Hotel had all the makings of a TV hit.
But as Miriam Margolyes, Wayne Sleep and pals ventured on a research mission inspired by the hit movie starring Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, the show quickly found a place in the hearts of BBC2’s audience.
More than four million tuned in to watch their heart-warming exploits early this year, making it the channel’s most popular factual show of 2016.
Now, in time-honoured fashion, it’s been snaffled by BBC1 and hits screens in the New Year. The new cast, heading for Kochi, South West India, are entertainer Lionel Blair, Dr Miriam Stoppard, snooker ace Dennis Taylor, actress Amanda Barrie, presenter Bill Oddie, singer Sheila Ferguson, actor Paul Nicholas and TV cook Rustie Lee.
Last time around the crew got along famously living together for a month in Jaipur in the north. Memorable moments included Margolyes talking about breaking wind and Jan Leeming, more poignantly, about loneliness.
BBC content boss Charlotte Moore called the four-parter a “perfect fit” for BBC1. She said: “The first series was a big hit that connected with viewers in a really heart-warming way. It was entertaining whilst enlightening, celebrating a universal subject.
BBC2 editor Patrick Holland, gamely wishing the series well, said: “Who would have thought that a show about retirement would become such a hit with audiences young and old?
“Moving to BBC1 means we have space to commission new series like Second Chance Summer, and Life and Death in a Week.”
At least he will get to see four of the stars of this year’s show in a two-part Christmas special for BBC2, in which they venture to Florida and Japan to check out how retirement communities work there.