I'm not quite sure why Hotel Impossible on the Travel Channel is one of my favorite shows. After all, it's similar to several other programs, where some expert is called in to fix a failing business in two or three days. And most people probably haven't even heard of it. But for me it's not only the best but a show I look forward to.
There are probably a few reasons, but two are at the top. The first is that unlike other programs (like Kitchen Nightmares, Restaurant Impossible, Mary Queen of Shops -- which is my favorite title, by far -- and others), a hotel is a particular entertaining venue. It's not just One Thing that has to get fixed, but there are the rooms, the front desk area, the grounds, housekeeping, maintenance and more. So, there's a lot of variety that has to be deal with, and it's all different from episode to episode.
And second, there's the host, Anthony Melchiorri. The hosts of most of these shows tend to be prima donnas who like to get in the face of their failing subjects, be confrontational and perhaps belittle them if that's what it takes to open their eyes. Melchiorri is a bulleted-headed New Yorker who definitely has the outspoken East Coast spirit in him, but...that's only a small part of who he is.
He's definitely tough (and served for five years as a protocol officer for the Air Force), but then he really knows his stuff as a hotel fixer and long-time expert in the hospitality industry. And when a business is failing, it does often need tough love. But while most of these similar hosts focus on the tough part, he balances it with the other. He can be New York Blunt, but he never yells or goes intentionally out of his way to insult people. It's clear that he loves hotels, which comes shining through, and really likes people -- and knows how to deal with them. After all, his business, hospitality, requires at its core that you know how to deal with human beings and treat them well, as respected guests. Mr. Melchiorri treats the subject with respect and even has been known to actually apologize (!) to them if he recognizes that he went too far in his directness. There have been times when someone breaks down crying, where he's wiped away a tear. And as befits someone trying to fix something as unwieldy as a hotel, he's often hugely creative in his efforts. One recent show, for example, featured a dying historic hotel in the tiny, out-of the-way town of Mokelumne Hill, California (located in Calaveras County, by the way, for all your literary types who recall Mark Twain's famous story about the jumping frog -- something oddly not mentioned on the program), and Melchiorri was able to get almost the entire town to help in his renovation, using all their individual expertise, because if the hotel failed, the town might, as well. It's almost out of Tom Sawyer.
Mr. Melchiorri uses a few different designers for his renovation work, but mostly Blanche Garcia, another reason I like the show. On most of these programs that have designers, they're a tad too frou-frou pretentious for my taste, and she's funny and down-to-earth. Plus, the designs she comes up with usually seriously impress me -- and I don't know from design. So, when I can look at something and go "Wow," it's generally awfully good.
There are other reasons I like it -- for one thing, most of his fixes seem to be working, at least for the time being. That's not always the case with these kinds of series. But, in the end, at the heart of the reasons is Anthony Melchiorri.
Hotel Impossible airs on the Travel Channel on Monday nights -- which is tonight, if you're reading this when it was posted. On the West Coast, it comes on at 7 PM and is repeated at 10 PM, but like most-things cable, it repeats through the week.
I don't tend to watch reality shows much -- most of them, after all, are really just part-scripted game shows with the "reality" name slapped on them. But while Hotel Impossible has a "created for TV" forced-nature to its premise, what follows is as much documentary as anything. And the result is fascinating, funny, dramatic and, ultimately, endearing.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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