THE COUCH POTATO: Channel 4’s latest is a Fawlty Towers farce
It’s the question nobody was asking. What would happen if “Britain’s most-loved TV faces” Gordon Ramsay, Mary Portas, Phil and Kirstie, Gok Wan, Doctor Christian Jessen from Embarrassing Bodies, and others got together to run a bed-andbreakfast for a week, with the help of 14 work experience kids, and filmed the results?
You’d get a complete mess of a television show with no direction, point or discernible format.
So, on Monday night... “I’m Paddy McGuinness, welcome to Hotel GB.”
Yes, somebody at Channel 4 Towers decreed that this would be ideal fodder for a nightly primetime entertainment programme.
And if you can explain what’s been going on, you’re a better person than me.
Gordon Ramsay tried from the off: “When you think of Britain and what Britain stands for, it’s all about the service industry and how good we can become as a hotel.”
Okay. So Britain wants to be become a hotel? Is that right, Mary Portas?
“It’s about a freshness, it’s about an energy, a little bit of cheekiness, not taking ourselves too seriously, but actually at the heart of it, putting people first.”
Well that clears that up then.
What I am certain of is that they have taken over the running of a London hotel where Ramsay manages the kitchen, Gok Wan the bar, Portas the hospitality side, Kim Woodburn is head of housekeeping, and it gets more confusing from here. All takings are donated to unemployment charities, and the 14 out-of-work trainees have been competing for two jobs with Ramsay and Portas at the end of it.
By which point this series will have succeeded in reducing the UK jobless figures by a couple, which will probably rise soon after with the addition of those responsible for this shambles.
It’s a mash-up of so many other shows that it’s quite dizzying, notably Hell’s Kitchen in that diners can choose to pay, not pay, or tip generously, which many rich customers did to the tune of £1,000, but not David Gest, who wanted change for a tenner from Kirstie Allsopp for sourcing him some breast milk.
The programme also borrows from The Hotel, Big Brother, Kitchen Nightmares, The Apprentice, Famous and Fearless, The Hotel Inspector, even The X Factor, with Ramsay telling waiters Will and Ade: “You two in the dining room, own it,” and sob stories: “I’ve got cystic fibrosis.”
“I’m a recovering alcoholic.”
“I was raised by my nan.”
“I host C4 dating game show Baggage.”
Telling off unemployed people seems to be at the heart of it.
The trainees are given the hairdryer treatment at every turn and Portas spends much of her time spraying breath freshener into the mouths of the staff who smoke, which looked like a Crimewatch re-enactment of a woman fending off a robber with Mace.
There is but one undoubted star, Hilary Devey who runs the boutique, “doesn’t do 9am, darling” and insists her two dogs are cooked steamed chicken for lunch.
Not every day, though, every other day. She’s not crazy.
But the Dragons’ Den panellist is grounded, has real time for these kids, and when told by tattooed trainee Rory that the body art is “a 21st-century diary”, replied: “Couldn’t you just have written it down.” Naturally, though, the focus wasn’t on the unemployed but the celebs, especially the appalling sense of self-importance TV personalities possess.
Jimmy Carr was genuinely hurt when a girl called Emily asked his name (“I’m Jimmy! Off of Channel 4!”) and Rory left Portas speechless by revealing: “I don’t watch television.”
But it’s the two co-general managers who gave the most succinct self-crit.
Portas: “It’s a disaster.”
Ramsay: “Hotel GB could be the biggest s***hole if we don’t get this right.”
Gordon and the rest of the Channel 4 team, you didn’t get this right.
This week’s Spudulike awards
● BBC2’s Welcome To India.
● Boardwalk Empire, on Sky Atlantic.
● Oliver Lansley’s superbly uncanny performance in the title role of BBC4’s The Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story.
● The best Doctor Who episode for two series, which was genuinely scary and featured showrunner Steven Moffat’s finest creation, the Weeping Angels.
● Peter Capaldi’s brilliance as Malcolm Tucker on another excellent The Thick Of It, particularly the line: “Come on, you can’t look a gift corpse in the mouth.”
● The comeback to end all comebacks by Europe’s heroes on the final day of the Ryder Cup, culminating in this wonderful one-liner from Sky Sports’ Ewen Murray: “Seve must have enjoyed that.”
● And the return of Red Dwarf on Dave, which is back to its best, having resorted to being a sitcom again in front of a studio audience, rather than a silent filmed comedy drama, and, crucially, is laugh-outloud funny. Smoke me a kipper. I’ll be back for breakfast.
This week’s Spuduhate awards
● The American fans shouting: “Get in the hole!” every time a player hit the ball off a 500-yard tee at the Ryder Cup.
● Watchdog wasting everyone’s time investigating the number of “whole crisps” in a bag of Walkers Deep Ridge (between 11 and 14, for the record).
● The fact that The Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story will be the last brilliant biopic made by BBC4, after the corporation pulled the plug on them.
● And ITV1’s Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile which, while hard-hitting and important television, left one of only two possible conclusions.
Either the women were lying and the good name of a man who raised millions of pounds for charity has been dragged through the mud with no right of reply, or a serial child molester went undetected, deliberately or not by the BBC, and will never be brought to justice.
Everyone a loser.