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9-10 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8
It has been nearly 20 years since Aaron Spelling’s “Hotel” closed its doors on ABC. For those who waited for a grand reopening, you’re in luck. Check out and check into “Hotel Babylon” on BBC America.
Technically, the two series are descended from different literary sources. “Hotel” was loosely based on the Arthur Hailey novel, and the show borrowed the lobby plans from San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel. “Hotel Babylon” was adopted from a book by Imogen Edwards-Jones and her partner, Anonymous. In practical terms, though, these are siblings born two decades apart.
Both shows (like Spelling’s “Love Boat”) are about guests who check in with an assortment of predicaments and the attractive staff that tries to accommodate them. Among the several stories juggled in each episode, there’s always at least one involving staff members.
Times have changed and viewers are more sophisticated, if not about content then at least in how it’s presented. “Hotel Babylon” is edgier and more hip. Video is zoomed and cuts come more quickly. Even so, British reviewers pegged “Hotel Babylon” correctly when they called it flashy, trashy, cheeky, frothy and “like a perfectly executed souffle.”
Tamzin Outhwaite plays the hotel director, Rebecca Mitchell, whose authoritarian style temporarily conceals the breakup of her marriage. Second in command is Charlie Edwards (Max Beesley), an all-around nice guy whose resume didn’t contain the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Other key figures are Jackie Clunes (Natalie Mendoza), the sexually aggressive head of housekeeping; Tony Casemore (Dexter Fletcher), the concierge who can get anything for a price; and Anna Thornton-Wilton (Emma Pierson), the comically haughty front-desk receptionist in search of marriage to a wealthy guest.
The one new element in “Hotel Babylon” is the constant effort by hotel employees to extract from each guest as many quids as possible. Charlie, who does voice-overs at the beginning and end of each episode, practically boasts of ways the hotel overcharges its guests. But the guests are rich and the staff is attractive, so it’s all in good fun, right?
In the premiere, the hotel gladly books an American rock band, figuring that ancillary charges will be enormous. When it turns out that the band’s manager is a penny-pincher who vetoes every extra charge, it’s up to Charlie to figure out how to plump up the hotel bill.
When the focus of an episode is on affairs of the heart, one eye-rolling scene follows the next. Even after two decades, no one has figured out a credible resolution for a story about a young woman who wants a hasty marriage to keep her rich father from sending her back to Russia.
If this light British dramedy is your cup of tea, you’re in luck. Unlike many BBC series which consist of four or five episodes, there are 16 for “Hotel Babylon.”
Executive producers: Gareth Neame, Laura Mackie, Lucy Richer
Producer: Christopher Aird
Director: Alrick Riley
Teleplay-creator: Tony Basgallop
Based on the book by: Imogen Edwards-Jones & Anonymous
Director of photography: Sean Van Hales
Production designer: Paul Cross
Editor: Barney Pilling
Music: John Lunn, Jim Williams
Set designer: Francesca Cross
Casting: Julia Duff, Craig Stokes
Rebecca Mitchell: Tamzin Outhwaite
Charlie Edwards: Max Beesley
Tony Casemore: Dexter Fletcher
Anna Thornton-Wilton: Emma Pierson
Jackie Clunes: Natalie Mendoza
Ben Trueman: Michael Obiora
Derek Crisp: Michael Attwell
James Schofield: Ray Coulthard
Dave Wiltshire: Ian Bonar
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