Did we like it?
Much like those extortionately-priced chocolate trifles common to hotels it was a sweet but forgettable indulgence. However, if you seek a more profound experience you should try cliff-diving into puddles.
What was good about it?
• Dexter Fletcher as Tony the concierge. He seemed to be the only member of staff not a slave to the superficiality of the hotel trade, and he also had most of the best lines.
• Tamzin Outhwaite as Rebecca the hotel manager. She seemed cold and aloof until you viewed her as the fleshy manifestation of the hotel itself. During the entire episode she didn’t set foot outside its borders. Blood doesn’t flow through her veins; it’s a mixture of booking forms, liquid deceit and cocaine-stained banknotes.
• Max Beesley has plenty of goodwill from his role in Bodies, and as the protagonist, the tale of how he is transformed from naïve receptionist to unfeeling automaton deputy manager under the ludicrously sharp heels of Rebecca will provide the central storyline.
• The style has freshness in filming technique and storytelling that is so slick Mount Everest could use it to comb its rocky slopes to impress the surrounding Himalayan peaks.
What was bad about it?
• Far, far too much style and gloss. It’s as if a volcano of filled with magma gloss has erupted and inundated the whole of central London with floods of glutinous glitter, swamping the populace with an intoxicating desire to see the joy in designer clothes, dull, expensive holidays abroad, fake smiles and avarice.
• And it’s this gloss that detracts from the relationships between the characters. When Charlie and Jackie copped off, under the tiresome guise of a ‘room inspection’ there was so little intimacy between the pair that rather than ravenous sex you imagined it to be a session of insincere air kisses, and should their tryst have spawned an infant it would be a champagne bottle rather than a baby.
• The staff seem awfully young. The doorman and the head waiter aside, nobody appeared to be much above 35, as though Hotel Babylon runs a Logan’s Run-style elimination and that ageing staff are butchered and slipped into the pots for the guests to consume.
• The conduct and misadventures, by both staff and guests, in the hotel were genuinely revelatory. However, this is largely because nobody really cares what goes on inside a hotel.
• The three battles that the hotel staff fought against guests – a reluctant bill-payer, a rock band who were on the tight leash of their PA, and a fraudster – were all won rather too easily.
• The resolution of the rock band who refused to generate publicity for the hotel by creating havoc was very weak. The band’s PA Nina was a puritan who had refused all of Charlie’s efforts to get them to splash their cash, such as booze, food and prostitutes, but then, completely out of the carefully laid down character, she assaulted one of the chambermaids. The assault seemed like a facile device to justify the way in which Charlie then fleeced her by organising a party, replete with the holy trinity of dissolutely wealthy – drug dealers, prostitutes and caviar, and get himself the deputy manager’s job into the bargain.
• An appalling soundtrack, which switched between the breed of bland techno that only impresses 17-year-olds on their first visit to Ibiza or the kind of “rock music” that only impresses record executives who take biannual six-week breaks snowboarding and sunbathing on Barbados. And the Kaiser Chiefs’ I Predict A Riot which has the same effect on our hearts as a stake does on a vampire’s.