The narrator of the British reality show Four in a Bed perfectly encapsulates the drama at the center of the series: “When your home is your business, everything is personal.”
Reality TV competition can get cutthroat in neutral locations. Bring people into each other’s homes for an overnight stay? And then letting them rate their competitors? Things get personal fast.
That’s why I loved the Australian show Instant Hotel. As its contestants visited each other’s rental homes, there was so much juicy drama and shady game play. Alas, Instant Hotel lasted just two seasons, and no one has brought the format to the U.S. or elsewhere.
So I was delighted to learn that a very similar show, Four in a Bed, is now streaming on several free streaming services.
Four in a Bed arrived in 2010, long before Instant Hotel, and is a somewhat simpler version. There is plenty of drama, enough to produce “fans blast” headlines, plenty of surprised reactions, and even threats from fans.
It makes for a quick watch, because four B&Bs and their owners are featured in five quick, half-hour episodes. Then: a new group.
It’s a full season of TV in just a couple of hours—and it’d be even shorter without all the recaps, though the narrator’s many silly puns and jokes keep things lively.
Four in a Bed’s B&B owners are quick to deliver sharp criticism, starting when they’re driving to the property.
Those critiques range from petty to picky; a season two contestant shows up with a mirror on a stick to look in corners and under the toilet’s rim.
Most interest to me are the moments when one person disagrees with their partner, or when one is clearly uncomfortable with the degree of criticism.
There are tears when they mark that they would not stay at a B&B again, perhaps because they love and are charmed by its owners, but cannot stand its dirty shower or uncomfortable bed.
After the stay is over, the other teams’ offer feedback and scores via anonymous feedback forms, which the owner reads at the end of the episode.
But that’s now how the competition is scored. Instead, each couple must decide how much their stay was worth. They can pay the posted amount, or offer more or less money than that rate.
Those amounts are averaged together, and the winner is the B&B whose guests have offered the highest percentage of their posted rate.
Those amounts are withheld until the final episode, so that fifth episode offers both recap and drama. After confronting each other about the feedback, each B&B owner opens their envelopes, learning how much their competitors thought their rooms were worth.
Anger, tears, and argument show up the most at that moment. Is someone being honest and fair, or playing a game just to win?
The winner is declared “best value B&B,” and gets an awkwardly designed thing to hang on a wall or stick in a drawer.
To get an idea of how this plays out, watch this video of its “best insults, underpayments and arguments.”
Where Four in a Bed is streaming in the U.S.
Since 2010, there have been 18 seasons and more than one thousand episodes (!) of Four in a Bed, all produced by The Traitors production company Studio Lambert, which is part of All3Media. (There are also three seasons of Three in a Bed, which aired in prime-time.)
Only a handful of those episodes are streaming in the U.S. now, but they’re entirely free. You can watch it on:
- Tubi, seasons 2 (60 episodes) and season 9 (45 episodes) on demand, plus a streaming channel
- The Roku Channel, season 1 (20 episodes), season 9 (13 episodes), season 10 (14 episodes), and a handful of scattered episodes from other seasons
- Vizio WatchFree+ channel 330, if you have a Vizio TV
Watching Four in a Bed made me appreciate how much Instant Hotel borrowed to create its format, though I also appreciated Instant Hotel’s additions, such as an impartial judge scoring the property.
Instant Hotel’s editing also smartly withheld what other couples’ property looked like until their episode. That allowed for the delightful unveiling of season-one couple Brent and Leroy’s feebly designed home, which was scandalous because they’d spent the first half of the season viciously ridiculing the other competitors’ taste and design.
There’s also a difference between Four in a Bed’s B&Bs and Instant Hotel’s Airbnb/Vrbo-style homes, whose owners were not home—usually!—nor offering service such as breakfast.
Four in a Bed, then, is a more intimate experience for its contestants, and that produces a delightful reality TV experience for us.