Hotel! (Channel 5, 2001)
A while ago I wrote a piece about Hospital!, a fast-moving and rather silly one-off sitcom that was shown on the launch night of Channel 5 in March 1997 to give us an idea of some of the comedy programming that we ought to expect from them (and to hopefully bring in the viewers too). Among the famous faces in the cast sending themselves up at the crazy hospital were Clive Anderson, Martin Clunes and Alexei Sayle (who were all making their first and probably also final appearances on Channel 5).
Someone must have liked it though, because the writer Laurie Rowley went on to produce a sequel, again featuring a cast consisting of lots of famous names that get caught up in rather unlikely chaos, and also featuring more of the rather bizarre jokes that were very similar to the style of American sitcom Police Squad! I have managed to track this show down on YouTube so here’s what it was all about.
Hotel! was a one-off sitcom where they packed in as many jokes as they could into the 90 minutes. The idea was that one day the American President’s plane has to make an emergency landing in a small English village called Little Ashford, and while it is being repaired they have no choice but to stay at a nearby hotel called The Nearby Hotel (and if you find that joke amusing you might enjoy the rest of the humour in the show).
The whole thing then descends into chaos as hostages are taken, passwords are stolen, and everyone begins to panic, but thankfully the hotel’s assistant Ben Carter saves the day, to much relief. Hotel! also contained an impressive cast who all played it straight including Paul McGann, Peter Capaldi (lucky viewers got two Doctors for the price of one), Lysette Anthony, Brian Conley, Keeley Hawes, Bradley Walsh, and Lee Majors as the rather befuddled President. Despite all the energy that was put into Hotel!, it was always going to end up second-best to Police Squad! (one of my favourite American sitcoms).
I’m fairly sure that Hotel! hasn’t been released on VHS or DVD, it got a rather average response from critics, it’s reported to have been made long before it was finally shown on Channel 5 one Sunday evening in 2001 with little publicity, and it really was one of those “don’t take any notice of the plot, just have a laugh”-type shows. However, there were to be no further additions to this series, and unfortunately Channel 5 have gone on to show barely any home-made comedy at all in the years since. I’d rather they try more ideas like this even they flop, than show 25-year-old repeats of Friends all day.