Announcer: Andrew Brittain
Granada for ITV, 15-29 July 2000, 17 June - 22 July 2003 (8 episodes in 1 series)
Crossing genres has been the 'in' thing lately. Cross game show with rubbish, sorry, DIY and you get Better Homes. Cross game show and cookery and you get Ready Steady Cook. Cross game show with hidden camera show and you get Hotel Getaway.
Billed as "the game you don't know you're playing," Hotel Getaway sends three couples who have been set up by friends/family etc. to stay in a hotel. But not any ordinary hotel, oh no, this is the kind of hotel that Anne Robinson would be investigating on Watchdog. It's Fawlty Towers 2000. It's bloody awful - and that's the point. You see, whilst all the staff are actors all the contestants are very real and the winners are the people who stay there the longest. Tonight Matthew, I'm going to be severely pissed off!
Now Matthew Kelly is no stranger to practical joke shows with Game for a Laugh in his background (and in a certain light he does look a bit like Jeremy Beadle) and he hosts this quite well. In the studio are the three couples and the hidden camera footage is juxtaposed with their retrospective thoughts and reactions. The structure seems quite episodic in that Matthew will introduce something that happened with the crazy hotel staff, we'll see a clip and then we'll get reaction from the studio.
It's these episodes that make the show because they're plainly ridiculous but the actors are quite good... even if they do slip out of character once or twice. How would you cope when 'police' were called in to investigate stolen crisps and chocolates that the bellboys had been knowingly selling to the contestants? What if you had been starved all day and get rabbit food for your dinner only to have the hotel manager get double haddock and chips? What if you rudely awoken by the staff having a huge argument outside? If there were exercise instructors giving a class at 7:00am with 2000 megawatt speakers? That sort of thing.
Now the idea is get have the contestants (remember, they don't know they're contestants) check out as quickly as possible. They go storming to the Manager's office and he gets them to list all the things they want to complain about, often twisting the knife one final time with knowingly stupid questions before revealing the secret of Hotel Getaway... yes, waiting behind the door were the 'friends' that had set them up with a camera crew. Quelle surprise!
Now, the show has probably ruined a good weekend for the contestants so it's only fair that they get it back. The first couple to leave win that amount of time they stayed somewhere nice in Britain, the second couple to leave get their time back somewhere nice in Europe and the couple who could endure the awfulness the most win their time back in America. Not bad!
It's an interesting show that is quite amusing but for one reason or another doesn't quite gel together correctly. The concept of having the contestants play a game when they don't even know they're playing it is original and fun but this show comes across as... a little inane.
The main problem is that most of this has been done before as a comedy/documentary called The Tourist Trap on Channel 4. OK, chances are most of the ITV audience won't have seen it, but you do get the feeling we're being sold shop-soiled goods here.
The series was quietly dropped without completing its run.
After spending three years waiting for the right moment, the series was repeated in 2003, shunted into those much sought-after post-midnight slots. It included the episodes never previously seen.