"Hotel Babylon is a witty, clever, and utterly addictive 2006 British television series launched in the States via BBC America in 2007. The formula is fool proof: assemble a hotel staff of strongly drawn characters, each with a secret past; add dashes of sexual tension, avarice, silliness and whimsy; then, in each episode fold in a parade of hotel guests, everyone arriving with their own baggage of deceit, pathos, and lunacy. The result is a comedy that has dark dramatic undertones, and a drama that breaks into giggles when the tension reaches a breaking point.
The promotional trailers aired on BBCA did not do this justice. Those soundbites made it seem as though the series was a debauched soap opera designed to attract a viewership of self- pleasuring adolescent boys. What a delightful surprise to find such a well-written, well acted series. Serious subjects such as immigration raids and drug trafficking crimelords shift stage with rock stars who refuse to party and sophomoric revenge raids on rival hotels.
The action centers around Charlie (Max Beesley), the deputy general manager with a murky past, as he adjusts to his new status in one of London's swankiest hotels. The rest of the staff (many it seems have either shagged him or want to) make his job a challenge, but ultimately pull together to solve the myriad of crises brought on them daily by the guests, who are all played by major stars themselves. (Anthony Stewart Head as the suicidal jingle writer will have you falling off your sofa choking with laughter; Joan Collins as the aging noblewoman will leave you wistful). As the series progresses, the viewer comes to feel sisterly sympathy for the sluttishly obsequious receptionist Anna (Emma Pierson), and certain conspiracy with the barmaster Gino (Martin Marquez). For me? My secret crush has always been Tony the Concierge (Dexter Fletcher), as he knows all, sees, all, can solve all, and is the most centered and upright of them all.
You won't regret purchasing this DVD. Each episode is a little treat unto itself (e.g. Episode Six, a homage to Hitchcock, must have been a hoot to film; it's a treasure to watch). You'll enjoy watching and re-watching for time to come. "
"Guilty Pleasure?"...Nope, Just Good TV
R.A. McKenzie | New York | 12/21/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"HOTEL BABYLON has to be one of the most incorrectly-advertised TV shows I've seen. When airing on BBC America this past summer, it appeared to be some glamourized soap opera with sexy women. BBC American salaciously promoted it on "Wicked Wednesdays". These commercials didn't even hint that HOTEL BABYLON was actually a breezy, fast-paced, funny, and surprisingly truthful look at a 5-star London hotel's happenings.
Each of the 8 episodes begins and ends with narration by Charlie (Max Beesley), the Deputy Manager of the hotel. Think Augustus Hill from OZ, or the opening quotes from THE WIRE. Charlie's philosophical monologues on the hotel business cleverly bookend each episode. Other characters include: Rebecca (Tamzin Outwaithe) - the workaholic hotel manager Tony (Dexter Fletcher from LOCK, STOCK, & TWO SMOKING BARRELS) - a loyal concierge who's mostly the moral center of the show Anna (Emma Pearson) - the superficial receptionist you can't help but put up with
There are other hotel faces that you'll learn along the way, and each is given an appropriate amount of screentime. Cameos don't steal the show, and reoccuring characters are well-balanced throughout the season.
What separates HOTEL BABYLON from other tongue-in-cheek comedy-dramas is that although the stories in this show are exaggerated, they all carry a dose of reality. Should there be strange noises and electrical failures during the midnight shift? Probably not, but any hotel employee knows that midnight shifts are as weird as they get. Would rebellious staff members assemble a mock wedding at a guest's request? Highly unlikely, but I've been asked by a guest for stranger favors. Would hotel staff and guests have fraternize, flirt, and have private get-togethers? Well...yeah, I've seen that happen.
HOTEL BABYLON treads a very delicate between a variety of genres. There are gut-wrenching laughs and moments that elicit small smirks. The drama can be very serious, but it's never cyncial or mean-spirited. The show is sexy, but not pornographic. The music is sometimes classy, and sometimes deliberately pop.
What keeps HOTEL BABYLON captivating, however, is its truthfulness to the world it creates. The acting is very strong, the photography is incredibly stylish (Guy Ritchie - take notes!), the characters are portrayed more with conviction than mockery, the production is top-notch, and the adventures (even the crazy ones) are so well-paced and structured that you just can't help but go along for the ride.
People who've worked in a hotel will appreciate the outlandish circumstances this staff can be put in, and how ridiculously dedicated and knowledgable the staff are required to be. And if you've never worked in a hotel before...after HOTEL BABYLON, you'll appreciate the guest services provided and definitely be a better sport on your next vacation. Cheers!
Give HOTEL BABYLON a peek. Considering my favorite shows are darker ones like THE WIRE and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, this BBC gem along with the new DOCTOR WHO is a pleasant surprise."
Hotel Babyon - 5 Stars
Jason G. | 08/29/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I discovered BBC programming after watching the excellent comedy series "Coupling" late one night on PBS. And I must say, the British have some outstanding shows.
"Hotel Babylon" is easily one of hippest, sexiest shows in recent memory -- miles ahead of NBC's "Las Vegas". Of course much of that can be contributed to the sharp writing and attractive cast, as well as the sleek sets and gorgeous shots of London.
Still, there's a lot more to this series than meets the eye. Newly appointed deputy manager Charlie Edwards (Max Beesley) serves as the series' narrator, navigating the trials and tribulations that the staff of the five-star property meet each day.
Above Max is Rebecca Mitchell (Tamzin Outhwaite), the Hotel's general manager. She's a gorgeous, confident woman who handles everything from "ordinary guests" to rock stars and even foreign delegates. Though highly poised on the outside, she's hiding a number of secrets that are revealed as the series progresses -- among them the fact that she's left her husband and is currently living inside the hotel itself.
The supporting cast is as diverse as it is amusing. Guest concierge Tony Casemore (Dexter Fletcher) does everything from getting theater tickets and restaurant tables, to high-class prostitutes for the rock stars who inevitably arrive from time to time. Joining him at the front desk area is receptionist Anna Thorton-Wilton (Emma Pierson), an old flame of Charle's and a rather superficial social climber.
"Hotel Babylon" alternates between the day-to-day grind of the hotel business to the persona lives of the characters. All of them seem to have secrets of some kind -- ones that eventually rear their ugly heads on the job. Of course, there's also a good dose of sex, glamor and money, all of which make the series a pleasure to watch!"
Grand Hotel it ain't
M. FUSCO | NEW YORK, NY | 09/06/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"And I thought only Hollywood could produce such self-conscious, unfunny, witless television.
Handsome Max Beesley was delightful in Tom Jones, but his career, aside from the big money, has taken a real nose-dive with this series. Likewise, Dexter Fletcher saw much better days with Guy Ritchie. Except for the 'hard-nosed business woman', the women are self-serving bimbos that Las Vegas would be proud of, but all the characters are monochromatic and shameless stereotypes: unctuous Italian, gay black, trampy receptionist. The latter is also a consummate, if failed (due to stupidity), gold-digger who regularly sleeps with any good-looking guest who's rich enough. In fact, the whole place is run like a high-class brothel.
These people supposedly work is a 5-star hotel in London, but their every action belies the 'invisible service' that one might expect in such an establishment. Week after week they bully, preach to, invade the privacy of, and otherwise interfere with the lives of high-toned clients. No one ever gets fired, no matter how egregious and selfish their behavior. It can be said that the characters and scripts display all the emotional maturity, and depth, of a ten year old. The episode in which the cliched straight Italian barman affects being gay (taught by the token gay black desk clerk) in order to get a big tip from a gay guest, is both embarrassing and offensive.
Other reviewers find this series addictive. I, too, must admit that I watched the whole first series on a popular streaming service, but mostly in order to see if they could maintain such high standards of superficiality and questionable moral tone throughout. They did.
At least I didn't suffer the humiliation of paying for it."
R. Duffy | New York, NY | 03/14/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It took me about an episode and a half to fully be able to appreciate everything this show has to offer. The pacing is very well done. There is not a lot of downtime before character development begins automatically drawing you into the world that the characters inhabit. You immediately know which characters you are going to love and which ones you are going to love to hate. Working in the hotel industry myself in New York City I really enjoy seeing the characters go through the same trials and tribulations of the glitzy and glamorous world of it all if not a little more exaggerated and exciting. I particularly enjoyed the 6th episode with the crazy and eerie overnight shift. All in all I think that after reading the book this is about as perfect a representation of the material as can be made. I recommend the book and the series to anyone that works in a hotel or has ever stayed in a hotel. You will appreciate every episode for at least one of the subplots if not all of them. My only criticism is that the major story arcs that carry over from episode to episode develop a little slowly, but the payoff makes it all worthwhile. One more thing that I really enjoy is the soundtrack. It seems like the entire show is underscored with very nice music to help maintain the mood and create a perfect atmosphere to absorb you into every scene."