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Hotel Inspector: a charming British B&B makeover show, now streaming free

Hotel Inspector: a charming British B&B makeover show, now streaming free
Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi revisits Brecon Castle and finds a detached toilet seat and the same pubic hair.

I was recently staying a few nights in a place that had a TV but no cable, nor were most of the streaming services set up. It was a Samsung TV, so it defaulted to the company’s streaming service, Samsung TV Plus, because every company needs a confusingly named streaming service.

As I flipped through its channels, I spotted something I’d never heard of right underneath the Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares channels: The Hotel Inspector, a series from Channel 5 in the UK.

From the Internet, I learned that The Hotel Inspector has been on since 2005, and is still on air, now in its 17th season.

That means it premiered just a year after Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, which is still my favorite Gordon Ramsay show, because he was not yet in Gordon Ramsay: Fox TV Character mode.

But The Hotel Inspector is an even better show.

Hotel Inspector Ruth Watson gives a skeptical look during her visit to Butley Priory
Hotel Inspector Ruth Watson gives a skeptical look during her visit to Butley Priory.

In each episode, the hotel inspector—Ruth Watson and her colorful coats in the first three seasons, and then Alex Polizzi—visits a small hotel or B&B in need of help.

The properties are charming, and so, usually, are their owners and staff, though there’s occasionally disagreement and conflict, British-style.

The biggest squabble I’ve seen came during a discussion and disagreement about—seasonal pricing! During that, the owner of Beech House Hotel, Michael, yelled at Ruth, “I can honestly say that is not true. It is a load of lies!”

To make productions cheaper, American versions of these shows tend to blow in and out in a couple days. Some real change can happen in that time, and the newest iteration of Restaurant: Impossible emphasizes that.

But The Hotel Inspector’s visits span months.

During their first visit, Ruth or Alex stay overnight, and inspect everything from the bathrooms to the breakfast (don’t lie about fresh squeezed orange juice!).

Ruth or Alex leave the owners and staff with tasks, and after weeks have passed, check back in. While a space or room may be renovated—with the production paying for that—it’s not a hurricane of changes.

Most episodes lead toward some kind of inspection, perhaps to be rated with stars or to get included in a guidebook, and/or often an event or relaunch.

Both Ruth and Alex offer thoughtful recommendations and creative ideas: shifting from a B&B to an event space, focusing on the restaurant instead of the horrifically dated and tattered rooms.

The Hotel Inspector's logo for Alex Polizzi's seasons
The Hotel Inspector’s logo for Alex Polizzi’s seasons

With its Trading Spaces-ish opening sequence and Mole-ish espionage movie soundtrack with blaring brass instruments, it’s certainly a trip back to a different time in reality TV’s life.

In many ways, the early The Hotel Inspector episodes I’ve seen felt under-produced, so the narrator has to fill in a lot of gaps for us, even mid-conversation, but I prefer that over, say, force-feeding lines to cast members.

Besides their creativity in solving problems, they have a fascinating mix of empathy and castigation to the owners, who sometimes need a wake-up call, and sometimes realize how dire things are.

Ruth tells two owners that “your figures make very woeful reading,” and tells an owner, “you’re a dear, dear man, but this is dreadful.” She tells another, “there’s one thing I found utterly loathsome.”

Ruth Watson is sharp and direct, as is Alex Polizzi, and both have their own versions of incredulity and humor.

“That pubic hair is symbolic of everything that is wrong,” Alex said in one episode, when she came back and found the exact same hair in the same place. “If this was my hotel, I promise you I would have a fucking nervous breakdown.”

As the years go on, the show injects a few more gimmicks. But those are so understated compared to American shows that it’s almost comical.

In one episode, Alex hands the owners of a restaurant piles of cash, and instructs them to throw them in the fire. They dutifully do, and after explaining that’s how much money they’re wasting, she reveals—surprise!—that the money wasn’t real, and that was just a metaphor, phew. “I’m absolutely gobsmacked,” someone says.

Like other FAST channels (Free Ad-Supported TV), Samsung TV Plus isn’t offering every Hotel Inspector episode ever, but a selection of episodes that stream constantly and repeat occasionally. (If you have a Samsung TV, you have it streaming 24/7. If you don’t, you can watch online, free.)

I saw the Safari Hotel episode several times during my stay, while others are still brand new to me. But I’m glad to dip in even to now-familiar episodes, because it’s just such fun to luxuriate in these spaces, their problems, and the inspectors’ solutions.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

Discussion

I value our community at reality blurred, which connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

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Happy discussing!

SamB

Thursday 30th of June 2022

I *love* Hotel Inspector, despite the fact that, by now, pretty much the same thing happens in every episode. My partner and I worked out that there are about six storylines:

- dirty hotel - weird hotel - too many knick-knacks hotel (often overlaps with weird hotel) - rude owner hotel - owners who have no hotel experience and no idea what they're doing - actually quite good hotel but terrible marketing

Nevertheless, I love it and never miss an episode. It probably becomes a little less 'sedate' in the more recent seasons, adapting a little with the times, but it's still always a nice, relaxing watch. Pleased to see you review it so positively.

Andy Dehnart

Tuesday 19th of July 2022

Ah! This is so great, Sam, and so accurate! There've been newer episodes added to the mix in the past week or two, and they start combining items from your list to make new episodes, like rude hotel owner + dirty hotel.

Still great, though, and I'm so glad you find it watchable even now. I hope Samsung TV Plus will give us all the seasons eventually!

David

Thursday 30th of June 2022

We were in the UK Recently and just watched another Long Running Reality Series "Come Dine With Me" - it's Hilarious! - The Narrator makes it with just the right amount of Snark - its on the Rebranded IMBD TV channel "FreeVee" along with Several other UK Reality shows, you should check it out, assuming you haven't already - a Looking at Wikipedia TLC and Lifetime tried and failed several years ago to do a US version