Series 3 of Hotel Babylon comes to a close, and I’m torn about the show.
First of all, I found this episode in particular to be almost offensive. There were many references to how “God” is dying out in the UK and how “modern temples” like Hotel Babylon now serve the same purpose that churches used to. While I don’t doubt that is true, the way that Babylon seemed to enjoy wallowing in the decadent delights of the hotel while ridiculing religion just rubbed me the wrong way.
And, of course, I have some issues with the series in general. As I’ve stated many times, the series began as a clever, “behind the scenes” look at the world of luxury hotels. It was based on the book Hotel Babylon, in which a fictional narrator takes us through a fictional day in the life on a London hotel, all the while regaling us with real-life anecdotes from “Anonymous” (the veteran of the hotel industry that author Imogen Edwards-Jones used as a source). In time, the show ran out of anecdotes based on the book, and so it became more of a soap opera based in a hotel. With the departure of Charlie (Max Beesley) and Jackie (Natalie Mendoza), the characters don’t interact with each other anymore (except as people who work together would). Early in the series, for example, Charlie and Jackie were sleeping together, and for a brief time there was a bit of love triangle between Charlie, Jackie, and Anna (Emma Pierson), before Jackie dumped Charlie for good and Charlie and Anna started dating. But now that the Charlie and Jackie have gone, people just act like… well, fellow employees. So there’s not even much of a “soap opera” aspect any more. Which you think would be good, right? But no. Out of anecdotes from the book, and without the more conventional aspects of a soap opera, the writers are veering into “unbelievable” territory. Russian gangsters now invade the hotel, along with faith healers, hostage takers, over the top Hollywood caricatures and “timely” topics. And so the whole thing has just become rather silly.
So why even watch it? Two words: Emma Pierson.
I don’t know why, but this girl really does it for me. Her accent is a big part of it, of course, and her body’s tighter than a snare drum. Too bad her character will apparently never find happiness:
A faith healer (Jonah Slaughter, played by Nicholas Rowe), shows up at Babylon. He’s quickly becoming famous throughout Britain, you see, and Emily is certain that he’ll be “playing” to huge crowds at arenas throughout London in the very near future… so it only makes sense for Babylon to “get in on the ground floor” with Slaughter, so to speak. However, two “problem clients” seem to be following Slaughter. One, Caroline (Samantha Cheecks) checks herself in and heads straight to the bar. The other, Martin, sweats like a pig and appears nervous as hell as he asks Jack to hold an urn (which contains his son’s ashes) for safekeeping. But the hotel safe is full, and Jack simply can’t bear to keep the urn in his office, so he passes it off to James.
Meanwhile, Anna’s been getting some annoying calls from a guest. He’s called down to the front desk numerous times with bizarrre (and impossible) requests. And he always asks for Anna. After a while, she just can’t take it any more, so he goes upstairs to give him a piece of her mind… only to find her boyfriend, Ned, in the room waiting for her. Ned, it seems, was pulling pranks on her, trying to intice her up to his room… so he could ask her to marry him!
But before she can reply, a shot rings out. Slaughter’s assistant (Nathan, played by Adam Kotz) has brought Caroline up to Slaughter’s room. She initially appears to be quite angry with Slaughter, saying that he took £30,000 from her dying mother (yada, yada, yada – “insert other rants against TV evangelists here”). As the heated discussion continues, there’s a knock at the door… and Martin enters the room… with a gun! Caroline gets confused by Martin’s ranting and then admits that she was an actress hired by Nathan to endear him to Slaughter. She also says that Martin has “gone in and out of character”, “changed his accent several times”, and that she “knows a prop gun when she sees one”. This enrages Martin – who is there because his son died from cancer after he decided to abandon traditional medicine for one of Slaughter’s faith healing sessions. Martin then fires his gun into the ceiling to let everyone know that he means business (this is te shot that Anna heard).
Anna runs from Ned’s room and tries to rally the troops, but Jack doesn’t believe her. Tony does, and he assembles the crew for a “rescue mission”. Jack, unable to find Emily but not believing the sound was a gun, goes to Slaughter’s room… only to be wacked in the head by Martin. This knocks Jack out.
Meanwhile, the gang decides to send Anna up the ductwork to spy on Slaughter’s room, Die Hard-style:
While crawling through the (mysteriously spotless) ductwork, Anna passes Ned’s room, and overhears him talking to his mother on the phone. He talks about Anna as if she were a piece of meat… or a possible bride in a Jane Austin novel. It breaks Anna heart, but there’s no time for that now. She eventually reaches Slaughter’s room, where she spies Emily and Jack, along with Slaughter, Nathan, Caroline and Martin… and his gun! The crew rush the room – James from the door to the adjacent room and Tony using a housekeeping cart to smash the door in. Martin accidentally fires the gun… and the bullet hits the urn containing his son’s ashes (which is flying through the air because James, for some reason put on the cart). The main storyline then ends with ashes and dust everywhere and Martin crying. Classy. For some reason, no one decides to press any charges against Martin, and the hotel staff clean up the ashes and find a clear plastic container to put them in. At the very end, Tony (Dexter Fletcher) is talking about how the hotel is like family, just as Anna walks in (crying) to what was supposed to be a celebration of her engagement.
One last thing: am I the only one that thinks that the writers have completely forgotten about “customer service”? During the entire series, we’ve heard about how Hotel Babylon is supposed to have “world-class” service, yet this series we’ve seen Babylon staff acts like jerks to guests on a regular basis. I mention this because this episode in particular had some glaring anti-customer service moments. An older gentlemen, for example, has cleared his schedule so thay he could read Catch-22 at the Babylon in peace. He decides to read the book in the bar, only to be kicked out by Gino, who’s angry because the man’s laughter and appearance are scaring away customers. The man then goes up to his room to read, only to have the book ripped by by James when the guest (rightly) complains about the intrusion. This is after an earlier incident, where Jack and James loudly discuss the urn\ashes in front of guests in the restaurant. I mean… come on! Jack is the hotel manager. He’s supposedly worked in 5-star hotels all over the world. We’ve seen him kiss-ass on an unbelievable scale when he really needed to… and now he’s going to argue (loudly) in the restaurant over an urn? HELLO? WRITERS?
The BBC’s website says that the show is coming back in 2009. I dunno if I’ll be there or not. Seriously. But until then, enjoy one last shot of Anna: