The Hotel - Review

Documentaries have lately taken on the new form of real “fly on the wall” programmes. A series of cameras are placed in a work place and the daily lives of the workers are filmed and then edited into fascinating and often moving slices of life. The most gripping and involving of these include One Born Every Minute and 24 Hours in A & E where the staff are so busy (usually saving lives or welcoming them into the world) that they barely notice the cameras.

The Hotel is a different proposition altogether. Series one was set in the Lake District and while it wasn't the best run hotel in the world, the characters obviously weren't “out there” enough for the programme planners at C4. So last year, series 2 took us to The Grosvenor Hotel in Torquay, and it can’t be a coincidence that the British Riviera was also the setting for Fawlty Towers.

The Grosvenor is run by Mark, a nervous bundle of energy who smokes like a train and, by his own admission, rarely eats. Reservations Manager Alison seems to be there for the sole purpose of mocking Mark as in two series I don’t think we’ve ever seen her take a reservation. The trio is completed by Christian, whose job last year was somewhat vague but this year has been promoted to Events Manager.

Series 2 kicked off with Mark looking to go upmarket to get more affluent guests. To this end he had placed an ad in the Guardian, but you have to wonder if a whole series on prime time TV hadn’t improved his prospects last year then he was on a hiding to nothing. He even got a new mobile number just for the classier guests, with a ringtone that played Liszt. Alison is, as usual, unimpressed. She doesn’t see why they should have to cater to people with money any differently to the normal guests. As she so eloquently puts it “we’ve all got a hole in our backsides.” To make the whole place seem even more like The Dorchester Christian was organising a Magic Ball, although we never saw him organise anything and he simply printed tickets off for anyone who asked without ever considering if he was selling too many. With a day to go, a menu hadn’t been organised, cheesecakes were not defrosted in time, the chef clocked off at 10pm on the dot before service finished, the whole event seemed to make Butlins look like Las Vegas and no one had thought to work out if they were actually going to make any money. They weren’t.

Upmarket guests arrived in the shape of the Claxton’s. Mr Claxton told us how they usually took five star holidays in Barbados, Sardinia and Spain, so you had to wonder if they were at The Grosvenor because of an ad in the Guardian or because they saw it on TV last year and felt like slumming it. After looking round the hotel rather like vultures surveying a carcass they came across an indoor pool that bore a striking resemblance to a petri dish. “Don’t get any water in your mouth” shouted Mrs Claxton at the kids before they beat a hasty retreat. When asked at the end of their stay if they would come again, the answer was an emphatic no!

The Hotel is never less than entertaining, but unlike other recent Channel 4 fly on the wall series you can’t help feeling that here they are playing to the camera. No one seems to have any common sense and everything that happens seems tailor made for a sitcom, from the chambermaids giving the carpets a quick going over with Shake N Vac to impress the up market guests to Mark’s 76 year old mum turning up daily in her shades to smoke a whole pack of cigarettes and belittle her son.

It would be nice if, for series 4, Channel 4 could find a new hotel where the staff were a little more interesting and less like characters that had been axed from a BBC3 comedy show.

The Hotel is on Sundays at 8PM on Channel 4. Check out the Channel 4 official site, or watch episodes on 4OD.

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