Channel 4’s Hotel GB opens for business…mayhem ensues!

by Gerard McGarry

Hotel GB: Mary Portas and Gordon Ramsay

Kind of hijacking Carlsberg’s famous saying, Hotel GB got off the ground tonight with the announcer saying “If Channel 4 did hotels…”

And that’s kind of what Hotel GB is from the ground up – a brilliant initiative by Channel 4 to parade out their best known stars in an ingenious project that recalls the multi-camera reality angle of Big Brother with a good cause – that of inspiring unemployed people to get off their arses and get into work.

That’s not all – the hotel will be run by two teams, the boys headed up by the World’s Sweariest Chef, Mr Gordon Ramsay and the girls by Queen of Customer Service, Mary Portas. A formidable pairing, and one we’re kind of hoping to see at each others’ throats as much as at the people they’re supposed to be training!

Portas and Ramsay will take on a series of unemployed people – mostly youths, but a few almost-unemployables, graduates with no work experience and ex-cons who can’t get work – and train them up to run a hotel. Each team is expected to make the most money possible from their services, and the proceeds are split jointly to the Prince’s Trust and Springboard.

The premiere…

The Hotel GB restaurantSo now that you know how Hotel GB works, how did the first episode go down?

Well, there was plenty to get through: we caught the teams coming together, with Ramsay and Portas getting acquainted with Gok Wan, Phil and Kirsty, Kim Woodburn, Katie Piper and Christian Jessen. The cream of C4’s talent is on display here.

We also see the ‘selection process’, which seems to involve Gordon and Mary in the Dragon’s Den loft interviewing a disparate bunch of dropouts and misfits. Each has their own reason for needing a job: they’ve got a conviction, they’re a graduate, they lost their last job for snogging the chef…

After a brief bit of roleplaying, well, virtually everybody is hired. Including the waiter who called Gordon and Mary Mr and Mrs Portas.

Things get sexual

Yes, while getting their bearings around the new hotel, some of the celebrities wind up in some uncomfortable situations. Dr Christian Jessen – who’s running the hotel gym – ends up giving an induction to Kim “Walking Carry-On Movie” Woodburn, a woman whose every second word is “Oo-er”. Things get incredibly sexual as Kim straddles the good doctor and forces him to do crunches underneath her. Yikes.

And just when you think things couldn’t get worse, Gordon Ramsay stumbles in on Katie Piper, where the two have a discussion about that most taboo of beauty treatments: the back, sack and crack wax. How this ends is with Ramsay on all fours on the floor having the procedure demonstrated to him…just as Mary Portas walks into the room. Try explaining that away, Gordon…

First night stresses

The remainder of the episode focused on opening night at the hotel – with the obligatory scenes of Gordon Ramsay chewing out everybody who crossed his path, whether they be rookie waiters or grizzled property dealers like Phil Spencer. He was also deliciously unrestrained in his disgust at having to cook a meal for Hilary Devey’s dogs.

On the other hand, Kirstie Allsopp virtually disappeared after the first five minutes. Which is a shame, because I quite fancy her. And she was hilariously workshy during the day of the press launch, quietly thanking the journalists she was greeting for not giving her their coats.

We had Gok Wan cooking up a cocktail called a Jackie Collins, then serving it up to…Jackie Collins. A posh partygoer causes a scene when he runs out of vodka and decides to become abusive to the front desk staff. This prompted an extended weepfest from one of the reception staff about how she’s got so much to give. Annoying, but definitely a scene which brought home the reason for Hotel GB in the first place: showing that thereĀ are opportunities out there for people, if they’re willing to take them.

Hotel GB presents an interesting concept show that crashes together all of Channel 4’s big names in a Big Brother themed reality format all in the name of (two) good causes. It’ll be worth tuning in for the rows and inevitable angsty moments, as well as seeing whether Portas and Ramsay can put their money where their mouths are and deliver a functioning, profitable hotel in the space of one week. And even if they don’t, it’ll be a laugh watching them try…