Grace Dent on TV: Inside Claridge's, BBC2
I love Claridge's, but I do wish these cosseted toffs didn't have it quite so easy
For the past 15 years, Claridge's had been one of my favourite places on Earth. Some people say that if the end of days was announced they'd hug their family close to them, or run about the neighbourhood having wild sex with DILFs from the school run or simply head to John Lewis home department and frottage the Le Creuset display. Personally, I'd go to Claridge's bar. Here, I'd sit on a tall stool and drink cocktails with seductive names, which were in fact industrial-strength head-numbing potions, until the airborne global virus made me nice and phlegmy.
There is a sense that nothing can go truly wrong in Claridge's, which after three hours of fly-on-the-wall documentary footage, I have learned is quite true. Thomas Kochs, the general manager of Claridge's, won't let anything bad happen inside his hotel. This includes letting the BBC2 camera crew record anything remotely salacious, cataclysmic or laughable during their entire schedule.
From the opening breaths of episode one, when we were informed that plutocrats and princesses who pay £6,000 per night for a bed could not and would not be offended in any manner, and their supreme contentment in every passing millisecond of the day was the hotel's overriding concern, we knew we weren't seeing footage of a titled lady blind drunk calling the maître d' at 2am for fresh batteries for her vibrator.
However, if the thought thrills you of watching quite uptight people walking hundreds of miles along perfect corridors to triple-check the shower head in suite 108 is facing at the optimum angle so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of a billionaire sugar merchant's daughter, well, was the show for you. If hearing the lift assistant claim that every Japanese pop star and government head was "very nice, very, very nice person" is your idea of "a plot point", you'd love this show. And nine million of you, in fact, very much did, for Inside Claridge's was a soaraway ratings hit. Sorely disappointed would be the punters who enjoyed Channel 4's rival show The Hotel – set in the Grosvenor, Torquay – and anticipating storylines similar to when Christian the deputy manager shoved on a size-22 diamanté cocktail frock, had a stand-up wash in the men's bogs and drunkenly unveiled his alter ego in the cabaret lounge while OAPs choked on their melon balls.
But despite Inside Claridge's being calamity-light, I still couldn't quite turn off. I've drunk cocktails in Claridge's, but am not of the set who'd blow £175,000 on a week, insisting beforehand that an entire floor of the hotel is re-painted in hues of pink, adjoining walls removed, staff members changed so the ones that felt "like family" were to hand and a suite customised so my dogs could shit indoors. Not that these type of people even confirm their bookings, leaving the hotel twiddling its fingers like a prom-going teen waiting for its date to call, all dressed up with possibly nowhere to go.
The behaviour of the mega-wealthy whom Claridge's tapdance all day every day for is quite mesmerizing. and the narration of Inside Claridge's painted them as noble creatures with laser-eye attention to detail, super-human palates, photographic memories, not childlike, spoiled, wasteful cosseted fools being milked for money. How head-bangingly ridiculous when checking into a hotel to imagine it's normal for six hotel management staff to bow and scrape every step of the way, a configuration of ass-kissers, each one battling to compliment your fantastic personality, following you up the stairs, into your suite, then loitering around, handing you personal handwritten letters from the staff expressing glee about your stay, while yet more strangers begin unpacking your underpants?
Claridge's is built on respect and tradition, so this is surely what the clientele want. I thought big money paid for anonymity, lack of fuss, feelings of slinkiness and being incognito. Check-in should be quicker with less bollocks small-talk, not arduous affairs with everyone's mums inquired after, intel about my every move over the following week documented and nervous souls appearing to fret about milk jugs and petit fours. I sense, after two weeks of continuous ultra-luxury living, that beautiful sense of being nobody else's concern would be quite grand. Oh, give me a room in a Premier Inn, on the top floor away from noise, with a clean bed and a remote control that vaguely hits the mass-produced 12-channel telly, a computerised check-in and a sign on the door which - to paraphrase – reads "Oh God, just sod off'.
Inside Claridge's underlines to us that some of the most important men and women in the world rarely handle their own underwear, would be wholly flustered by the sight of a tangled electrical cable, and will suddenly – at a moment's notice – re-route their world trip, missing London, leaving Claridge's with a customised ballroom and hors d'oeuvre mountain one could ski down. And they won't care. And neither will Claridge's. But then, it must be hard to muster up enough energy to care with the air-quality being so thin deep inside rich people's bottoms.
Grace's marmalade dropper: Nigellissima at Christmas! Nigella is smothering her puddings in cream! She's wrestling her chocolate salami! What? Oh you people are pigs.
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