CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: The creepy hotel where the host secretly snoops on the guests
Reunion Hotel (BBC2) **
Classic Car Garage (Yesterday) ****
It started off as an upmarket Long Lost Family with room service, but Reunion Hotel (BBC2) has become the creepiest show on the box.
Partly it’s the cameras in bedrooms, which are constantly monitoring guests. One shot saw a new arrival walk right up to a spy lens and place a water bottle in front of it: he was clearly oblivious to the fact it was filming him.
Another guest was repeatedly seen lying face-down on his bed, tapping at a tablet and chatting on the phone.
It’s a viewpoint familiar from reality gameshows such as Big Brother, but it feels intrusive in a format supposedly based on reuniting friends and family on neutral ground, at a hotel in North Wales.
Presenter Alex Jones, who seemed overly respectful and polite in the first episode, has now swung too far in the other direction. She listens at doors, and withholds information so we can enjoy the looks of shock when she chooses to reveal secrets.
It started off as an upmarket Long Lost Family with room service, but Reunion Hotel (BBC2) has become the creepiest show on the box
And she sometimes treats people like animals in an experiment. Staging a garden party for a group of women who trekked to the North Pole together in the 1990s, she watched them from a window. ‘Look,’ she marvelled, ‘after 25 years, they’ve completely recognised each other.’
The most disconcerting element, though, is the way both Alex and the show’s therapists stand in the foyer, discussing the guests’ personal lives with the waiter and receptionist. It’s obviously staged, but it’s also unnerving.
Reunion Hotel makes a big deal of the counselling and psychological support offered to participants.
Mostly, this means they’ll constantly be asked, ‘How are you feeling?’ — before their answers are relayed straight back to a gossipy chatterbox on the front desk.
Each of the encounters seems chosen to be as different as possible from the others. This can sometimes feel strained. Two people who fell out as teenagers 12 years ago were having an awkward heart-to-heart, made trickier by the fact that one had grown up female but was now a trans man called Noah.
The first meeting between Ghanaian-born Kwesi and the daughter he’d never seen was made touching by their genuine emotion and tears.
But outside in the garden party, the ladies’ get-together felt rather corporate, like an anniversary for former classmates of a girls’ public school.
In the workshop at the Classic Car Garage (Yesterday), owners and mechanics alike were taking no notice of the cameras.
Their vintage vehicles lap up all the attention, a fact this channel discovered with its long-running auction show, Bangers And Cash.
The biggest attention-seeker was a 1960s Daimler Sovereign with a loose wire inside the steering column that set the horn blaring on every corner.
In the workshop at the Classic Car Garage (Yesterday), owners and mechanics alike were taking no notice of the cameras
This was the first episode of a series filmed in a London garage where owners are able to tinker with their prized motors, while experts offer advice and aid.
Most eyes were drawn to an open-top sports car with a growl like a grizzly bear on steroids. ‘It is just lairy, no other word for it,’ declared the owner of this 289 AC Cobra happily — though he’d have been happier still if the vehicle had been an original.
There are fewer than half a dozen left in the world, and they fetch well in excess of $1 million.
This one had an intermittent fault with an indicator. Mechanic Amand, known to colleagues as the Prof, inserted himself upside-down in the footwell under the steering wheel to test the loom of 40 electrical wires.
‘You’ve got to be flexible in this job,’ he said, and added, ‘I’ve got a good osteopath as well.’
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