Last Night's TV: The Hotel Inspector, Five
Undercover Boss, Channel 4

Watching The Hotel Inspector made me hanker for a hamburger. Not because there was any fast food in it, but because it made me wonder, if you took out all the filler and watering-down, how much televisual meat you'd actually be left with. This is one of those reality shows that wastes a good 25 per cent of screen-time in flashing forward to the best bits coming up later (appetite spoilers) or recapping the best bits that have already happened (indigestion). Which is a shame because, amid the repetitions, there was some good content.

Alex Polizzi returns as the titular snoop for a third series, having taken over the job from the equally posh – and rude – Ruth Watson (now busily rescuing country houses on Channel 4) two years ago. The granddaughter of Lord Forte and sister of Rocco, she has a spiky, neurotic watchability, sort of Trinny crossed with Aggie, and a nice line in brittle put-downs. "I'm not really into the whole role-playing French countess thing," she sniffed upon walking into a honeymoon suite that can only have been designed on a Marie-Antoinette-does-acid mood board. "Otherwise, this would be very much my kind of room." Best of all is the way that she only calls people "darling" when she's really, really rather cross with them. As in "it's not bloody good, darling!"

"Darling" in this case was Joseph Louei, a twinkly, Iranian-born, Plymouth-based proprietor with a penchant for trilby hats and denial. Faced with a slew of negative reviews of the Astor Hotel on the Trip Advisor website ("horrendous," said one, "traumatic," agreed another), he muttered darkly: "I'm very active in this city and I have upset a lot of bad people." This inspired the programme-makers to call him "the Proud Persian" and play the Godfather music at random intervals.

Polizzi soon set him right, pointing out common-sense errors such as the plain carpets, the piles of towels in the middle of the bed rather than in the bathroom and a breakfast buffet "lacking in wow factor". She also redesigned the lobby and one of the rooms (Will he ever get round to redesigning the rest? And who, in a business that has failed to turn a profit in nine years, is going to pay for it if he does?). Battles over croissants and matching hangers resolved, it ended on a jolly note. Louei hosted an "Independents Day" in his plush new lobby for local businessmen. "No one wants cities dominated by big chains," declared Polizzi. Quite right. It would be awful to have those Forte hotels popping up all over town.

There was more snooping on Undercover Boss. This week it was the turn of the chief executive of Tower Hamlets council, Kevin Collins, to spy on his own employees and find out what goes on at the grass roots. It's a slightly odd conceit for a programme when you think about it. Isn't it the CEO's job to know, or at least pretend to know, everything about his or her company? Evidently not. Collins and the programme-makers couldn't even agree on how many employees he had. He said 8,000, they said 10,000. I'm inclined to believe Collins, given the director's taste for Day Today-style whooshing cameras and bombastic drums.

As per the format, Collins spent an eye-opening week on the streets, working with meals-on-wheels deliverers, pest-controllers and housing officers. For this he stopped shaving and wore a horrible black beanie hat that made him look considerably scruffier than all of his well- turned-out employees. It says a lot about the disconnect between figurehead and front-line that this disguise turned out to be sufficient.

Of course, this timely experiment was played out against a backdrop of the most savage public-spending cuts in generations. Collins, four months into the job, has to find unprecedented savings of £50m over the next three years, which made this a uniquely fascinating business case study. As Tim the rat-catcher pointed out to him: "We're not here to make a profit. We're here to provide a service."

Faced with dedicated employees carrying out essential services for society's most vulnerable, Collins quickly realised that there was very little fat to trim. "If we weren't doing this," he wondered, "who would?" The only exception he found was the fledgling £3m enforcement officers scheme. This, it seemed, involved little more than prowling the streets doling out fines for dropped cigarette butts and warning clowns that they needed a licence to sell balloon animals.

The heart of the piece came from the council workers. Tim, on pest control, stole all of the best lines as he calmly dealt with hysterical home-owners. "I would die if a rat got in this house! I'd move out! It could eat me!" said one. "Unlikely," countered Tim. "Rats have extremely poor eyesight and they're colour-blind." In a show that aims to expose poor working practices, only pride and dedication could be found. These were star employees and it was moving to watch them work.

Their reward was to be invited to Collins's corner office for the "big reveal". There they were greeted by a newly shaven, bespectacled Collins, who offered them places on various "schemes" and "panels". It made you wonder if he had learned anything from the experience: cutting-edge schemes cost money, after all. Still, it was a start. More than that, it was essential viewing for anyone who's ever grumbled about their council tax – or doubted that an attack on public services might be anything less than catastrophic.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album