TV review: Hotel
"Maybe they'll run it tomorrow and we'll get another night from them," someone observed in Hotel (BBC1), as the staff of the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool watched news coverage of the cancellation of the Grand National after an IRA bomb threat. A frightening gleam came into the eye of Eileen Downey, the hotel's general manager. She had just realised that an ill-wind was blowing a bonanza back in her direction - hundreds of prosperous clients with no means of escape and nowhere to spend the night. It is pointless to whinge about the iron laws of supply and demand, of course. A hotel is a business not a night shelter for the upper-crust homeless. But even so there was something faintly unseemly about the glee with which the hotel set about profiting from this misfortune. "We're going to play the war years," said Eileen solemnly, as staff began to construct some rather pricey dormitories in empty function rooms (pounds 45 for mattress and breakfast). The role she appeared to have in mind was one of those sharp-suited gentlemen who could get you anything provided the price was right.
This prejudicial take on Eileen's blitz spirit could be a cultural misunderstanding. While the Adelphi is one of Liverpool's most expensive hotels, the fact that it is in Liverpool ensures that the service comes with an edge of scouse banter - a faint sense that it would be unwise for guests to get above themselves, however much they are paying for the privilege. "Ar ... ya poor little thing," said one receptionist teasingly, ruffling the hair of a jockey who had just complained that he was homeless. Another haggled with a slightly startled man over the very last room in the hotel, finally settling for double the usual rate. And every now and again there is the opportunity for a more robust engagement. The guest who discovered that his room had been given away found that raising his voice wouldn't get him anywhere; "Hey! Don't you shout at my receptionist," said Eileen, before asking two burly men to show him the revolving door. This kind of confrontation is meat and drink to the soap-doc and every now and then the dark thought crossed your mind that care had been taken to ensure that supplies didn't run out. How was it, for example, that the rather overblown young lady, ejected by Eileen after a pursuit through the hotel's bars, was filmed arriving with her equally blowsy friends? Just good luck or a spot of private catering on the producer's part?
The receptionists in the Linton Travel Tavern are much more conventionally respectful of their guests - even when the guest in question is Alan Partridge. It's true that the new girl did have some difficulty in keeping a straight face while Alan explained exactly which swear words had been spray-painted on his Rover but that was surely forgivable. In this six-part follow-up to Knowing Me, Knowing You, Steve Coogan's grotesque hybrid of ambition, inadequacy and string-backed driving gloves is desperately trying to keep the guttering flame of his celebrity alight, though that isn't easy when the BBC won't commit to a second series and his only broadcast outlet is Up With the Partridge, Radio Norwich's graveyard shift. Alan doesn't even have a talent for brown-nosing; when he discovers that the new commissioning editor is something of a wine buff he attempts to impress him by ordering half a bottle of Blue Nun with his lunch. Like a few of the jokes in I'm Alan Partridge (BBC2), this is quite funny but not well-observed - the restaurant they were in wouldn't plausibly have had it on the wine list. But the moments when the forensic precision dips a little for the sake of a gag are made up for by Coogan's performance. Partridge would be much less funny without his ability to act out the pain of a failing career as if it was a tragedy rather than a joke. The beady look of rising panic that came into his eyes when he realised none of his programme ideas was going to get the go-ahead (not even educational projects like Knowing M.E., Knowing You) was really almost moving.
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