Monday, 1 October 2012

One hotel, plenty of reservations

The incessant fusion of second rate celebrities with derivative reality TV formats continues apace, with Channel 4's latest innovation - Hotel GB. They've taken over a hotel for a week, and filled it with "some of Britain's most famous faces", whilst Paddy McGuinness parades up and down the pavement outside like he's running the taxi rank.

The lofty goal of the show is to "get Britain working again," as though the whole country has spent the last five years watching Jeremy Kyle and fishing stray pork scratchings out of its underwear. There's a depressing gender bias in the allocation of roles, with Gordon Ramsay and Gok Wan looking after the food and drink, and Mary Portas "and her girls" taking care of hospitality. Gordon comments that he's worried that they'll be stuck with the biggest shithole in London; which is precisely how the rest of the team must feel about him whenever he leaves the room.

Elsewhere, Dr Christian Jensen is managing the gym, and hoping that no-one will be dropping their trousers in front of him. It's a long time since I've watched Embarrassing Bodies, so I'm shocked to see that the once handsome doctor appears to have transformed into a withered tree from the Addams Family's back garden. If he looked petrified before, it's nothing compared with the shell of a man that's left after Kim Woodburn has straddled him on a sit-up bench.

According to Paddy's occasional voice-over, one in five young Brits are unemployed. 2,500 have applied to be trainees in Hotel GB, where Gordon is looking for hunger from his prospective employees. But he's a chef, so he would say that. As for Mary, she's hoping to find people with a sense of joy - presumably so she's got something to crush out of them.

The young hopefuls are a less than inspiring bunch, especially Tom who seems to have come straight from the village shop in Royston Vasey. They enthuse about the chance to clean toilets for minimum wage, and when one girls cries about her struggles with cystic fibrosis, you can see the glee in Gordon's eyes that they've hit the sob story jackpot. For all the talk about wanting to make this one of the best hotels in the world, the successful applicants get half a day's training before being thrust into the firing line, suggesting that no-one's taking the show's concept too seriously. The poor fuckers don't even get to keep their own tips - since they'll all be donated to charity.

Day one begins with Kim, Gok, Gordon and Mary all gathering in the lobby to congratulate each other on the fact that they're all the 'queen' of something. But there's an embarrassing silence when they get round to Gordon, and legal considerations prevent me from speculating why this might be. In a shocking twist, it appears that a couple of hours' training might not have been sufficient for these apprentices who've never had a full-time job before. University graduate Vanessa has a meltdown during a role play and quits before anyone's even turned the sign on the door to open.

On the big opening day, the team is given one last pep talk before the real customers arrive. They're told that they've got some "big hitters" coming in tonight, which means we could be getting a surprise visit from Justin Lee Collins. But it turns out that the celebrity guests are Hilary Devey and Jackie Collins. Meanwhile, Phil Spencer is being put through his paces as maƮtre d' and promptly confirms every single preconception about estate agents being utterly useless.

The reception staff are struggling to get their heads around the concept of customer service, as the creepy hobbit decides to focus on a guest's eyelashes until she starts reaching for the pepper spray in her handbag. Over in the spa, Katie Piper is relieved that her first treatment has "a happy ending." I hadn't realised it was that kind of an establishment. Christian is busy getting settled in a gym that the Borrowers would find a little too cramped, and Kim's upstairs giving Hilary's room some "special attention." I think that means giving her duvet cover the once-over with a UV lamp. 

In honour of the other esteemed guest, Gok has knocked up a special cocktail called the Jackie Collins. I'm not sure what went into it, but I'd bet a tenner it tastes like cum and hairspray. Poor old Hilary, who rocks up with two Yorkshire terriers in tow and a body warmer that looks like it was made out of Cookie Monster, doesn't get a cocktail named after her. Not to worry, she looks like the sort of woman who'd settle for a bottle of Gordons and a couple of straws. She and Mary bond in her room, and I'm reminded of her charming laugh, which sounds like a garage door scraping across a gravel driveway.

Up on the top floor, there's supposed to be a wild hot tub party taking place in the penthouse suite, but it looks more like a dozen bored students throwing a housewarming in a Barratt new build. Emily on reception has to deal with an aggressive drunken cock from the party, who comes down to demand more vodka. Despite her lack of training, she handles the encounter admirably, and resists the temptation to ask him if he wants it administered anally. 

Ultimately, I'm not sure what the point of this show is. By mashing up elements of Celebrity Big Brother, Jamie's Fifteen, The Apprentice and Secret Millionaire, it feels as though Channel 4 is hedging its bets. For all the lofty intentions about getting Britain back to work, it's really just another week-long exercise in vapid celebrity worship that's really not worth checking out. 

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