Anthony Melchiorri just began his sixth season of Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible, on which he’s worked to help fix more than 75 hotels across the country. Season six has finished filming and started airing last Tuesday night with an atypical episode that was more Route 66 travelogue than makeover.
In this wide-ranging interview, Anthony and I discussed everything from his clothing to problematic producers, how he interacts with designers to accusations that the show staged events of an episode.
Anthony’s increasing lack of patience
Hotel Impossible follows a very familiar template for makeover shows, but hotels are also a much bigger canvas to work on than a single restaurant or hair salon. When the show first began, it was quieter, even docile compared to other makeover shows. While Gordon Ramsay and Robert Irvine scream and throw things, Anthony seemed like the opposite. To be honest, I was almost bored early on. But I got hooked as Anthony grew more comfortable—and, as turns out, more impatient.
When I asked how the show has changed for him over six seasons, he said, “Another really good question. How it’s changed for me—and I was just thinking about this recently—I am really pretty I can’t say shocked, but [I’m] intrigued, by the level of dysfunction in some of the hotels that even after six season, and most of them being big fans of the show.”
He says the final episode of the sixth season will be a shocking. “I literally sat there and I couldn’t believe what happened in the four days I was there. It was so real and so true,” he told me. “What happens in hotels is people get so overwhelmed by the enormity of the hotels, whether it’s a small hotel or big hotel. There’s so many complex issues, so many processes, so many procedures, so much technology, so many different ways people book, that people are so lost. It’s fascinating to me how overwhelmed people can get.”
“If anything, it’s become more determined to help and more determined to turn their lives around. I will say I’m probably a little bit less patient than I was the first season because before I got on the show, I had a 25-year track record of turning hotels around. Now we’ve done 78 shows in three years, and it’s been proven that when people listen to what we do, their lives are turned around. We’ve been pretty successful. I would say that my passion for doing it but my patience has grown a little thin on some of the owners.”
I pushed a little more about his change in demeanor over the seasons. “I’m really not more aggressive; I would say I’m less patient,” Anthony said. “I’ll listen to what you have to say and then I’m going to tell you what you need to do, and you’re going to do it. And if you’re not going to do it, I’m not going to listen to you any more. I’m not a big screamer and yeller; I don’t believe in tantrums. I go through a year without losing my temper, typically. So I don’t understand someone loses their temper every week. I don’t lose my temper that often. But this season, I’ve lost it a couple times. So when I get pissed off, I’m really pissed off.”
Crucially, though, his focus is not on creating conflict for its own sake. “At the end of the day, these people want help,” he said. “They don’t want my drama; they want my help.”
Accusations from the Thunderbird Motel
In 2013, the show filmed in New Jersey as part of its “Operation Sandy” episodes, and there was conflict over the production with the Thunderbird Motel. That was complete with audio, but not video, of the hotel owners complaining to the producers. One of the owners,
Anthony told me that he welcomes scrutiny. “I would love for them to go through the raw footage or demand the raw footage from us through court or something,” he said. “There is nothing that we staged there. The only thing we didn’t show was the house that was completely washed out and they were basically putting a house back together. That was a scene we—we went to and we felt really bad for them because we didn’t know that other stuff was happening.”
He added that “there is not one thing on that show—not one thing!—that was staged, and I put my life on it, I put my credibility on it. If they could say one thing was staged and they could prove it, I would 100 percent admit it but it’s just beyond not the case. When people say it’s staged, when you have nothing to hide, you don’t get upset or you don’t get angry.
Hotel Impossible isn’t staged, but parts are planned
Anthony told me that “people ask me every day, ‘That’s not real. You’re a good actor.'” But he insists: “If my producers ever set something up that producer would be gone so fast. I would literally ask Travel Channel to remove the production company and get me a new production company. It’s so innate in us to make sure that everything runs true.”
When Anthony arrives on location, “99 percent of the time I don’t even know the name of the hotel when I arrive. I have to ask my producer.” Those producers do a lot of advance work that makes the show possible. “Does the producer go down there and outline the show? Meaning, okay, at 3 o’clock we’re going to talk to the housekeeper, and at 7 o’clock, we’re going to talk to the front desk manager, and at 1 o’clock we’re going to talk to the owner. Yeah, of course. For budget reasons and for timing reasons, they know pre-planned who they’re going to talk to.”
Critically, though, his reactions and actions are all unplanned. “Nothing that comes out of my mouth is staged,” he said.
Firing producers who don’t want to follow reality
Anthony admitted to me that Hotel Impossible has “gone through a number of producers, because producers, to be quite honest with you, aren’t used to a completely unscripted show. We’ve had a lot of talented producers. There’s a lot of producers that love it and thrive on it, going in not as prepared as they like to be. Listen, it’s scary for me too. I almost throw up every time I go to this show.”
But he thinks their job is important, and staging things is out of the question. “At the end of the day, I truly believe life and death. There’s been several I won’t go into because I think several of the hotels are being sued by guests, but there are some guests that have died because some hotels do not take precautions. I’m not saying [hotels] that have been on my TV show or not. I’m just saying in general,” he said.
“I take what I’m doing very seriously. I’m not playing games; I’m pretty intense. I’m not always the funnest guy to be around for four days.”
How production interrupts his work
During those four days he’s with a hotel, a lot has to happen. “We have the best crew on television, and my team knows me very well, and I know my team,” Anthony told me. But there is still plenty of frustration involved with actually filming the show, such as setting up shots or dealing with technical issues.
“Nothing’s ever done that’s unnecessary, but the necessity of what happens for lighting and stuff—yeah, everything annoys me,” he said. “Every single thing annoys me because it prevents me from one more minute I can be spending with the owner. Is it necessary? Have I learned to cope with it? Of course. It’s like anything else, like a traffic light. Do I like traffic lights? No, but I don’t yell and curse every time there’s a traffic light, I just wait for my turn to go.”
How much Anthony knows about the design plans in advance
Nothing. That’s despite the fact that renovations, obviously, need advance planning from the designers and their contractors.
“100 percent no,” Anthony said. “I don’t want to know colors, I don’t want to know furniture, I don’t want to see things. We had a new designer, I think at the beginning of the season. She sent me some plans. I was on set and I’m looking at my computer, and she sent me all the plans and the colors and everything. I said, ‘What’s this?’ And she goes, ‘Open it.’ And I go, ‘What is it? Because I don’t open anything unless I know what it is from a designer.'”
When she revealed that it was plans, he told her, “‘I don’t need to see that. Thank you!'” While “the designers, they know, if I don’t like it, I’m going to tell them,” Anthony said, “You can tell by my reactions I wasn’t 100 percent happy with the design. But I would say, 99 percent of the time, our designers nail it.”
How much Anthony Melchiorri spends on dry cleaning every week
Anthony’s visual trademark, if you can call it that, are his suits, which often get filthy during the course of his investigations of hotels. So I wanted to know: How much does he spend on dry cleaning?
“That may be the most timely question I’ve ever been asked,” Anthony said. He was driving in his car as we talked. “I just literally came from my dry cleaner. … My dry cleaner—literally, this is a true story, even before the show started—I drove them so nuts about how I wanted my suits to look that I apparently became their best and favorite customer.”
“My dry cleaning bill is super-confidential,” he said, “but just for this show, I will break that I probably spend $300 a week on dry cleaning.”
Hotel Impossible’s two new spin-offs
There are two new Hotel Impossible spin-offs coming to Travel Channel. Five Star Secrets is a half-hour show that aired two pilot episodes last season. It goes behind the scenes of five-star hotels, and it’s one that neither Anthony’s wife doesn’t particularly like. (I’m with her on that.)
“The only person that doesn’t like Five Star Secrets is my wife. I said, ‘Why don’t you like the show?’ And she said, ‘Because you look like a 12-year-old in a candy store,'” he told me. But that is by design: “That’s the stuff that gets me excited. I created the show with [the show’s production company,] Atlas, and the whole mission was to get me friggin’ excited, and if I’m excited, the audience will be excited.”
The other spin-off is Hotel Showdown. It’s a competition between four hoteliers competing for $25,000. “I’m intrigued by that show and fascinated by the passion of the owners and the managers. These hotels aren’t easy to make money, these little boutique hotels,” Anthony said.
Thinking about all three shows, Anthony told me that they allow him to be part of the entire business. “Right now, we have three hotels showing the entire circle of the hotel businesses:” “the turnarounds where people aren’t doing it right, the mid-level to upscale hotels doing it well, and then you’re showing the five-star, dream, this-could-be-yours if the price is right hotels.”
“It’s really a dream for me as a hotelier that I am in the hotel business on every level, every day, every week,” he said. “It’s literally been a dream come true.