Hotel Babylon Review: House of the Rising Caricature

June 19, 2009 by  
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HOTEL BABYLON: Friday 19th June, BBC1, 9pm Alert Me

A warm welcome back to the Hotel Babylon, the drama offering us a peek at the illicit activity happening behind all those “Do Not Disturb� signs; an ultra-violet lamp of truth shining against the soiled sheets of indecency.

A terrorist attack has brought London to a complete standstill, bringing hordes of stranded “characters� and celebrity guests seeking lodging.

There’s nothing like a security alert to drum up some business for the hotel, which we learn will be closing in a mere month’s time. This leaves the staff more on edge than usual, although they all have to pull together to keep up the morale of their guests at this distressing time.

Meanwhile concierge Tony (Dexter Fletcher) thinks he’s found someone to buy the hotel and save their jobs, though in doing so he must make a tough moral decision.

It is difficult to gauge whether Hotel Babylon is supposed to be funny at first. The tone segues from aloof and slick to goofy slapstick, sometimes being both in the same scene.

Back to those staff. Who do we have? Glamorous blonde? Check. Black homosexual? Check. Eastern European? Who’s also a chambermaid? Check. Perhaps they wanted to cover every demographic. But they’re not characters. They’re caricatures. They satisfy certain stereotypes to the detriment of the story’s credibility. Embarrassingly the Italian one’s called Gino. You know, like that “authentic� Italian ice cream from the 90s.

Granted, Hotel Babylon does have its moments. There are heroes and villains, and there is fun to be had (Dexter Fletcher as an imaginary genie, anyone?), but these moments are few and far between. An already thin storyline is stretched ever thinner over the hour. It feels like it’s been adapted from a US drama, and brutally sanitised, so that near-the-knuckle humour loses its punch.

Despite the potential apocalypse even the guests are disappointingly well behaved. Where is that seedy underbelly we were promised? That voyeuristic romp?

So the sheets are pressed, the beds are made and the crystal is polished. Shame there aren’t any filthy guests to defile them.

Leonie Mercedes