Did we like it?
A vast improvement on the first series despite, or perhaps because of, its distillation into a sequence of melodramatic, comical vignettes segued together by a chain of implausible events.
What was good about it?
• The Home & Away-esque metamorphosis of some characters to make them more defined, charismatic and likeable. Rebecca (Tamzin Outhwaite) has been liberated of the haughty stuffiness that made her so drab in the previous series, a change provoked by her imminent divorce. She now recklessly gets drunk with guests, and endorses staff making commando raids on rival hotels.
• Anna (Emma Pierson) has been fitted with a third dimension the size and sheen of a fitted glass conservatory ensuring that she has a purpose other than just popping up to deliver waspish barbs at the reception desk. And the most entertaining scenes are those between her and Charlie as they flirt like a couple of courting black widows.
• While Charlie (Max Beesley) has travelled in the opposite direction to Rebecca and Anna, and is more dull and officious but oddly far more appealing. He is also ‘under threat’ from Tony’s new deputy on the concierge desk, Luke, who has already caught the eye of Charlie’s former lovers Anna and Jackie.
• This turnabout in the cast was most keenly demonstrated in the puerile but strangely entertaining plotline about a “war” with a rival hotel during which various garish ornaments were pilfered and displayed as spoils of the “war”. When Charlie and Rebecca found out, Charlie admonished them but the newly bolshy Rebecca became the ringleader; “If the Burlington want a war, we’ll give them a bloody war!” she crowed. And as this went on, such was the childlike petulance of about six or seven characters that it came to resemble Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills transposed to an upmarket London hotel.
What was bad about it?
• The cameo appearance by Chris Moyles, the most odious ‘celebrity’ in Great Britain, a man who could through his horrid shambling existence make a case for Jeffrey Archer and Stan Collymore being afforded entry to Heaven. A cursory radiographic scan of the first episode of Hotel Babylon would deliver a pretty clean bill of health except for the ominous cancerous shadow cast by Moyles, but on closer examination he is revealed to be just an insubstantial tumour of pus and bluster who can be excised and tossed into a nearby stool bucket.
• The screaming jazz music that overruns each scene with the same unwelcome ferocity as the Third Reich invading Poland.
• The almost total absence of a gripping plot, which appear to have been slimmed down to a size zero to compensate for the beefier main characters. This week, an MP and her conniving husband pretended their marriage was over, and she subsequently had an affair while staying in the hotel so they could grab a tabloid front page and the reality TV hamper of goodies that accompanies such infamy. While Russ Abbot and Cherie Lunghi played Mr and Mrs Poldark who had to be kept apart by the staff after they booked in after each undergoing cosmetic surgery and wanted to surprise the other.