Observations: Vegas is right at home in Spain

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The Independent Culture

Johnny Vegas is lying on a sun lounger by a dazzling blue pool. We are at the Solana Hotel, the location for Benidorm, ITV1's raucously entertaining sitcom about a group of dysfunctional Brits who run riot on the same all-inclusive package holiday every summer.

Try as he might, Vegas can't conceal the fact that he's having the time of his life in the sitcom, which returns for a third series in a new hour-long format tonight. "I'd never moan about being in Benidorm," he says. "We can't possibly be miserable about this job – we're effectively being paid to sun-bathe!"

This is exactly the sort of bravura routine – honesty mixed with hilarity – that has made Vegas so popular with audiences.

In Derren Litten's sitcom, which in the past has racked up eight million viewers per episode, Vegas plays Geoff, who styles himself "The Oracle". A self-deluded mummy's boy who comes to the resort every year with his mother, he tries to conceal his deep sense of insecurity by showing off his (supposed) genius at pub quizzes. This time round, he develops an ill-disguised crush on Chantelle (Hannah Hobley), a teenage mum who also holidays at the Solana every summer.

Vegas, who also stars in the successful BBC3 sitcom Ideal, about a strangely likeable drug dealer, explains that, "This year, Geoff has run out of places to hide. He's realised that he can't keep lying and starts to show that he likes Chantelle. He also has the odd scene where he mentions that in the past he tried to kill himself, and that's the first time I've found myself with any sympathy for him.

"He's always been in denial about his flaws – he's always found other people to blame. He wants a relationship, but that's never going to happen if he carries on like this."

Some critics have accused Benidorm of mocking its characters, but Vegas is having none of it. "Benidorm doesn't look down its nose at the Brits who come here – it's just really honest about what they get up to. If people take umbrage at that, there's every chance they see something of themselves in these characters."

'Benidorm' is on tonight at 8pm on ITV1