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Reality TV Interview

Brendan Sheerin ('Coach Trip')

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Brendan Sheerin on Celebrity Coach Trip

© Channel 4

You can keep your box of chocolates, lovingly-plucked roses and sentimental cards. There's only one present we're looking forward to receiving this Valentine's Day - a brand new series of Coach Trip! Not a moment too soon, Brendan is back to lead a sixth jaunt across Europe, and this time, his travelling companions are meaner than ever. We got on the blower to Big B to find out more.

Where does series six start off?
"We actually start in Milan, Northern Italy - then from there, we go through Switzerland, because you've got to to get to anywhere else, and we do lots of wonderful stuff there. And then we literally go right across the centre of France to the north-west of Spain. A lot of people go to the Costas, so we wanted something different. We went to St. Sebastian and the Basque Country. From there, we went to Santiago de Compostela, which really pissed me off. Historically, it's been one of the massive pilgrimage places in the world since the medieval times. You've got this beautiful massive cathedral, and [the contestants] were all rowing about the vote! The whole way round, honest to God - you've never seen anything like it. They really missed it."

From what I've seen so far, this seems like a particularly bitchy series.
"This is series six now and people have been watching since series one. They've got the gist of the programme. They know that once they get on, they've got to network. They see people as enemies. If you don't get on with them, you can get rid of them. And if you get rid of the people you don't like, then you stay on for longer. So you're getting more of a clique with people."

In series five you changed the voting rules slightly so that couples couldn't receive yellow cards on consecutive days, but you've scrapped that this time. Why was that?
"It was too long. People were playing that as well. They knew they could milk it out. They were getting around that. And we thought, 'No, no, it's not working properly.' If people want to get voted off, they'll get voted off in the allotted time, so that's what happened."

Is there one particular couple that stands out for you this series?
"Darren and Wendy are a nice mother-and-son couple from Liverpool. She drove me nuts, because she was nicking everything. Everywhere we went, she nicked something. I ended up going: 'Don't nick the bathrobes from the hotel, because these days they charge you!' Even in bloody Switzerland, there was this lovely plant pot with lovely butterflies. She nicked a butterfly. She knew I'd check her bag, so what did she do? She planted it on another bloody contestant, and I couldn't find it. She's a monkey. But she was fun."

Do you ever think you could go to your current hometown, Torremolinos?
"We actually finished in Torremolinos this series! I got off the coach at the end and walked off around the corner to my apartment, would you believe it? That was fun, actually."

We're six series in now and the show is obviously very popular. Has this affected how the contestants interact with you? Do they treat you like a celebrity?
"Yeah, I think they do, but a lot of them realise what my role is, and they know I've got to look after them, and they expect that. They may think I'm a celebrity and they look forward to meeting me. This series, there were a couple of lads that joined us in St. Sebastian, and [one of them] was a bit starstruck. The young lad was staring at me. But it got worse - he was touching my hat! Anyway, they were supposed to be these two little action men, father and son. They were into eating bugs and camping and going out in the outdoors. But they were absolutely boring!"

You've worked your way through hundreds of contestants now. Is it difficult for you to remember them?
"It is, because we do have so many. But when I did panto in Southport at Christmas, Daz Stokes (from series three) had organised a group of ex-contestants to come up to see me and stay overnight. After the panto I went to meet them at the hotel, and we all had drinks together. Each little group from a certain series was sat together, so it was easier for me to just go from one table to another table, and I networked with all of them. It was lovely."

Have you heard from Tom and Holly recently?
"Yes, I have, but not since they got married. I know they are still in Brisbane, where they've just had those awful floods. I don't know how they've got on - I think they're too busy saving their house or whatever."

How do you think the celebrity version went?
"I think it went very, very good. It was a bit easier with the celebs simply because when I wanted them to sing and dance, they would. Normal contestants are a bit shy until you get to know them. With celebs, they're up for anything and they'll do anything you ask. They're more savvy about making a TV programme."

What's immediately next for you, then?
"I've got a map of Cuba in front of me, which I intend to go to in about two weeks' time. I want to do Havana and see all the tourist sights there. Then I'm going to find myself a little beach and go snorkelling every day, read books, relax and not talk to anybody. I'm not showing anybody where the toilets are or telling them what time they've got to get up! It's going to be brilliant."

Additional reporting by Ben Lee

Coach Trip returns Monday, February 14 at 5.30pm on Channel 4.

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