Thursday, August 16, 2007

Decadent & Delicious

No, I am not talking about ice cream. I am talking about the BBC series Hotel Babylon. This is my favorite new show. It may well become my new favorite show, but only time will tell. The series is set in a luxury boutique hotel in London, Hotel Babylon. While you need reservations to check in, once you are in, there are no reservations. At Hotel Babylon, guests receive 5 star treatment and can live out their every fantasy, often with assistance from the staff.

Unlike shows like Love Boat where the guests were the main focus of each episode, on Hotel Babylon, the staff that comes first. Every episdoe has new guests in the hotel and we see what happens with them, but the real drama is all about the staff. Deputy manager Charlie is our guide to what happens behind the scenes. His voice overs open and close each episode, much like Carrie on Sex and the City. Charlie’s boss is Rebecca Mitchell, the hotel’s no-nonsense General Manager. She’s determined to keep guests coming back for more, but running a tight ship has taken a toll on her private life. Charlie tries not to get distracted from his ambitions by Jackie the straight-talking, stunning Head of Housekeeping or his one night stand, the vicious-yet-gorgeous Head Receptionist, Anna. Charlie's savior is the always dependable super-concierge Tony, who prides himself on being able to fix anything for anybody, anytime.

Now that you have some background let me tell you about last night. The episode began with Tony doing the morning rounds of collecting the prostitutes he arranged for guests the night before. Rebecca likes them all out of the hotel as early as possible. During his rounds, he mistakes a hotel guest for a hooker. Rebecca ends up having to comp the guest's stay. However later on a woman in the room of a hotel regular claims to be the guest's wife. But she looks like a hooker, has no luggage and the staff have never seen her before. Rebecca is convinced she is a prostitute and tells Tony to get rid of her. Tony refuses saying he thinks she is a guest and does not want to make the same mistake twice in a day. By the end of the episode, we find out she is in fact this old man's wife and her luggage was lost which is why she had no clothing. She used to be a dancer, but married out of it. As this couple is checking out, she gives Tony a 2000 pound tip, and when she hugs him she whispers, "I only married him for his money. When his heart gives out, I'll be back for you." So I guess Rebecca was right.

In last night's show we also learned that Charlie did some time in jail. We don't yet know what for or how long. He is now being blackmailed by a fellow former inmate who is trying to start his own car service. He asks Charlie to send him some business and makes it clear that he will tell Rebecca about Charlie's past if Charlie doesn't comply. Charlie is clearly trying to erase his past and make a new life for himself. Unfortunately his efforts may be thwarted. He goes out of his way to make sure every guest is attended to, even if it means playing a tambourine as backup for a guest pitching a jingle for tampons. He is the guy you want to root for.

Charlie's life at the hotel is being further complicated by his affair with Jackie. She continally asks him to do a room inspection, which is their code for, "let's do the nasty." They will go to an empty room, do the deed and then hang a "make up room" sign on the door when they leave. Not a bad perk. While this affair is not complicated, the complication is in the form an Anna the receptionist. She and Charlie had an affair sometime in the past. She was competing for he Deputy Manager job that went to Charlie. Now as Head Receptionist, she seems to be out to make Charlie's life hell while worming her way into Rebecca's good graces. She is one of those people who will not let anyone get in their way and will do anything to get ahead. If Rebecca is smart, she will keep a close eye on Anna. Anna will not be happy until she has Rebecca's job.

Finally about Rebecca. There is a lot going on there. She has been staying at the hotel every night. Boxes of her clothes were mysteriously delivered to the hotel last night. We learned that she is married, however we don't know why she is now living at the hotel. Last week someone painted "SLUT" across her car. So apparently things at home aren't going well. My guess is that she had an affair, her husband found out and kicked her out.

At the end of the episode, Tony takes the tip he received from the non-hooker and puts it in a hiding place behind a photo of the hotel's former Head Concierge. When he opens a panel in the wall behind the photo, we see hundreds upon hundred of pounds in cash sitting there. Why he isn't putting it in a safe, let alone a bank, is a mystery yet to be solved.

What is in Charlie's past? What is going on in Rebecca's marriage? Why is Tony keeping all this cash in a wall? So much to find out about. Hotel Babylon is well written, well directed and well acted. The show is seemless. It is steamy yet classy as only the British can do. The style with which the women on this show can tell someone to fuck off is a beautiful thing to watch.

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