Check into 'Hotel Babylon'

Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2007

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TV fans disgusted with their broadcast network choices this summer -- reality shows, reality shows and more reality shows -- are best advised to look further afield, particularly if they subscribe to digital cable. That's where you'll find BBC America (check with your local cable system for channel position), a respite from the reality maelstrom.

Last weekend, BBC America premiered "Jekyll," an update on the old "Jekyll & Hide" story, and tonight the British cabler takes a stab at reimagining the 1983-88 series "Hotel," which was basically a landlocked "Love Boat" all about the guests of an upscale hotel.

BBC America's "Hotel Babylon" (8 tonight) is perhaps more akin to the current NBC show "Las Vegas," concentrating more on the staff than the guests. The show comes mostly from the point of view of soon-to-be deputy manager Charlie Edwards (Max Beesley, "Bodies"), who works alongside frosty, mysterious boss Rebecca (Tamzin Outhwaite) and concierge Tony (Dexter Fletcher).

Inspired by a book of the same name about life behind-the-scenes at a high-class London hotel, "Hotel Babylon" gets a lot about the business right from the limited exposure to hotel "team meetings" I had during my time as president of the Television Critics Association, which chooses the hotel for the two annual press tours in Los Angeles.

When in the first episode, the hotel staff invites an American rock band in, hoping they'll order a lot of over-priced room service and trash their room (which will bring the hotel publicity), that all rang true. Of course, on "Hotel Babylon," things don't work out as planned, leading Rebecca to mutter, "We emptied an entire floor for these people. Am I the only one who thinks they're obligated to spend an obscene amount of money here?"

A high-gloss series with production values just as significant as what we see on American TV, it's worth checking into "Hotel Babylon" if you're seeking a respite from reality -- TV shows or otherwise.

Deputy manager Charlie Edwards (Max Beesley), general manager Rebecca Mitchell (Tamzin Outhwaite) and concierge, Tony Casemore (Dexter Fletcher) welcome guests to "Hotel Babylon."  


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