Hotel Impossible broke the fourth wall repeatedly last night as Anthony Melchiorri worked on the Hurricane Sandy-destroyed Thunderbird Motel in Seaside Heights, N.J., and eventually walked off the job because of horrific behavior from the family that owned it. He’d actually found a hotel that it was impossible to help, kind of like the now-famous Amy’s Baking Company episode of Kitchen Nightmares.
The two-part episode is coming near the end of the show’s third season (it’s been renewed for a fourth), and was framed as an uplifting post-Sandy makeover, but the hotel turned out to be not exactly worthy of the show’s time, effort, or resources. It was an unexpected twist, because I thought it would be two episodes of devastation and sympathy.
Part one ended with a cast member talking off-camera but still on mic about wanting footage to be deleted, and included repeated death threats, like “if you screw with my family, you won’t make it home,” which the family’s patriarch said to a producer, along with, “You wanna see my style? Buy life insurance.” Of Anthony, he said, “Let’s chop his [fucking] head off.” Upon learning that the family owned millions of dollars of other properties, Anthony told them, “You’re trying to play me” and the crew–which was on-camera a lot as the fourth wall was broken–packed up and left.
Perhaps most interesting to me was a conversation Anthony had with one of the two adult children. “That’s what happens. This is not a fake show,” he said. “You got my brother extremely upset to do yesterday’s skit,” she said, although the audio changed in the middle and we didn’t say her see the last part, so perhaps that audio came from another moment (there’s some irony). Anthony said, “This is a real show. We don’t have skits.”
I believe him, and despite the sketchy editing–which I’m sure thrilled the family since just the normal editing included their behind-closed-door complaining was still captured on their mics–think what the show presents is legitimate, though compressed for time and all that, of course.
There seem to be an increasing number of people on various shows who are legitimately surprised when a show isn’t fake or contrived by producers, a direct result of all the faking that is going on now. Genuine shows are becoming the exception, which is tragic.
The Travel Channel show has been a mild-mannered version of the format originated by Gordon Ramsay in the UK. But because Kitchen Nightmares became a nightmare when Fox adapted it for the United States, stripping out all that was great from the UK version, there’s a lot of room for shows to fill in that gap, and both Bar Rescue, Restaurant Impossible, Tabatha Takes Over, and Hotel Impossible do that for me.
But the first three seem to increasingly be headed into Ramsay territory; even if they’re honest, they’re edited to focus on screaming and crazy drama, with only minimal attention to the actual business makeover; right now, Hotel Impossible is still doing the reverse, which makes it really entertaining.
Update: The family has responded on their hotel’s web site, bizarrely in text that appears at the bottom of the page about its rooms:
“Please be advised that we do not endorse or support what has been aired on the travel channel. Super Storm Sandy was a major tragedy that crippled our beloved coast, and we do not take belittling, abuse, and head games lightly! We did not ask for their help NOR did we need their help! To turn around and berate a family, town, and community in need is a MAJOR disgrace! It amazes us how words were interjected and scenes are spliced together to make up a story that fitted their desires! We removed the ENTIRE crew from our premises within the first few hours of shooting due to damaging property, belittling, and manipulation! We were scouted by the show because they claimed to have wanted to help a community in need. It is almost one year later, and our property is still not fully functional thanks to the games and abuse endured! We did NOT sign up for this abuse or treatment! To turn around and say that our story is not right, and that we do not need your help is ridiculous! As a unified family we removed ALL of the GARBAGE from our property for good reason! The entire town removed them because their type of help was NOT needed!”