30 January 2009 | archie-56
Babylon: OK Bit of Fluff
Hotel Babylon is a slick bit of business, superficial yet entertaining enough to a degree; the show does benefit from Max Beesley's observant second-in-command, aloof and cool, all-seeing on the lobby floor, his interior monologue serving to give us a sense of a philosophical insider's perspective. Dexter Fletcher benefits from being one of those street-wise, connected types who seems to have a remedy for every problem. Oddly, despite her glitzy status as manager, Tasmine Oouthwaite came off sexier and more personable in the gritty drama The Fixer than she does here, where her character is often hard yet brittle, with only intermittent flashes of humanity. Again, the goings-on are slickly rendered with the break-neck pacing, cross-cut story lines and slick production values to keep us distracted.
As the series went along though, two problems became increasingly apparent. One, the hotel crew are always up to something, some sort of cover-up or switcheroo, whether in the name of their clientele or themselves or both in some instances, which may in reality be part of the territory but they come off as a kind of a deceitful, slapdash bunch, hardly as all knowing, professional and savvy as they're made out to be, all ultimately deserving the sack. Secondly, the characters generally do not come off as likable or honourable, more obsessed with making a buck. There is one episode where the Raymond Coulthard character cheats in a wine-tasting competition, going up against an old rival. One could have empathy for him if he was dealing with some n'er-do-well who deserves comeuppance, but Coulthard's catty character is merely desperate and out of his depth, compromising a colleague to aid in the deceit. Do we like this guy? Nope. We're not given enough character development to think otherwise. Ditto for the self-absorbed lobby receptionist, who's petty, venal and superficial. True, people like this can be found in any workplace, but watching them week after week minus any other redeeming traits gets a bit tiresome.
I realize these are picky complaints but if our protagonists were bit more rounded or at least made empathetic or charming in spite of their foibles, then the series might have had some resonance and depth, raising it beyond the trifle that is, dissipating from the mind as quickly as a wafer disappearing from the tongue. Nothing lasting beyond the initial sensation.