Hotels, remember them? Like houses, but bigger, with an off-putting sense of welcome, corridors like Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, issues with furring in the bathroom extractor.
We used to go to them before lockdown, out of necessity, or sometimes — apparently — for pleasure.
The docuseries A Very British Hotel Chain was filmed before the world dropped into s**t creek, which is lucky, because there wouldn’t be anything dramatic about watching Britain’s shuttered hospitality industry return to the wild, its function suites colonised by roaming Bambis, the breakfast bar re-wilded by fox cubs fat on soft Ricicles.
There is a lot going on in this fly-on- the-wall series. Irony mostly, as the participants — the subjects and the invisible hands behind the camera — compete for control of the joke.
There must have been a time when popular documentaries about everyday subjects, offering no real insight except the laughable ordinariness of everything, didn’t unfurl like the lost pilot episode of The Office — but frankly it’s hard to remember.
The voiceover is by Diane Morgan, who sometimes plays the TV idiot Philomena Cunk. Here’s she’s more straightforwardly knowing, as she intones flatly about “Best Western’s unique but warm bosom”.
What a bosom it is. The structure of the company isn’t explained, but it seems to be a loose federation of independent hotels, modelled somewhat on Dunder Mifflin, and overseen by an energetic new CEO called Rob whose business expertise is summarised in relation to his fondness for Australian rules football (he likes to grab things by the balls).
One of Rob’s 17 rules for good business is “Do I have a best friend at work?”
“Do you?” asks an off-camera voice.
“I love Val, my PA,” Rob replies. Also turning his frown upside-down and creating loyalty through love is Mark, whose devotion to sales and brand development is such that he appears to have swallowed Ricky Gervais whole, though his central role is under threat from hotel inspector Alasdair, who likes to measure TV screens to see if they are as big as they claim.
“I pinched this out of my mother’s knitting box,” he says, unfurling a measuring tape. “She’s been dead for 20 years.”
Clearly, the business of delivering beds to sleepyheads is a tricky one, best explored over several episodes.
But it is a relief, in this opener, to welcome a guest appearance from chef Marco Pierre White, who is being wooed by head of acquisitions Terii (“with two ‘i’s”), to see whether he will allow his hotel near Bath to join the Best Western chain. It involves the chef showing off his pixellated sexy art, some stuffed crows and a wall of celebrity portraits by “Dave Bailey”.
Marco, who exists on a finer grade of celebrity oxygen, teases Terii like a Bond villain.
“There’s nothing wrong with a bit of narcissism,” he says. “I love it,” replies Terii, sensing the ripe static of a deal being done.
Inside Best Western is on Channel 4 tonight at 9pm