You could’ve been forgiven for thinking that you’d stumbled across an episode of Eastenders last night if you were having a flick through the channels and came across the new series of Hotel Babylon. Not only was the incredibly edible Nigel Harman at front and centre, Syed’s girlfriend Amira – Preeya Kalidas – was there too playing the role of an Indian bride who was meeting her husband-to-be at the hotel.
However, sadly, this was not an Eastenders spin-off; it might have been worth watching if it was…
Having never seen Hotel Babylon before, I tuned in solely because Nigel Harman was going to be in it but alas, even his magnificence wasn’t enough to float this sagging show boat on the sea of TV worthiness. It’s fluff basically. It’s SATC, Ugly Betty type fodder; camp and OTT and utterly unbelievable.
And despite it trying hard to be contemporaneous and touch the edges of big issues – such as terrorist attacks in London – it just can’t cut it as real drama. Comedy drama possibly, but not bona fide serious drama. Not by a long chalk.
The storyline for the opening episode was that the hotel was in danger of closing. Enter Harman as Sam Franklin who’s sheltering from the terrorist activity outside. He’s a bloke who’s got cash coming out of every orifice and hey presto, he decided to buy the place, as you do. However, along the way it turns out that his ex-wife Juliet is working there as a ‘trouble-shooter’. She’d been nicknamed The Undertaker by staff because it was her brief to decide on the future of the place, until her ex bought it anyway.
In addition, receptionist Anna was not coping well with her pregnancy, the concierge Tony was having bizarre hallucinations and, for no really obvious reason, PR lady Emily was giving thought to streaking through the hotel.
Then a few famous faces turned up; Abi Titmus was costumed as a nun – I know, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief that far either – who had to share a room with Handy Andy, then Ben Fogle who wanted to know if his bill would be reduced if a terrorist blew up the place. All very amusing, if you’re easily amused.
I also found that there was way too much emphasis on Harman’s magnetism and attractiveness, which I suspect was constantly reinforced just in case we didn’t get it that he’s fit. We get it, you don’t need to have every character lusting after him in order to point it out.
So if I were asked to sum up the new run of Hotel Babylon in four words it would be these; vapid, transparent, shallow and lacking. That said though, if all you want out of it is a living embodiment of Heat magazine, you wouldn’t have been disappointed.