Business reality TV shows are all the rage, but Travel Channel‘s Hotel Impossible was one of the best. Almost a decade after it premiered, the show is still one of my favorites in the genre. Anthony Melchiorri is fantastic as he travels the country improving hotels, inns and other properties that have fallen far below the standard of hospitality.
While we all could use some escapism at the moment, I’ll be rewatching some of the show’s early episodes – because I still enjoy checking them out and hopefully can share my love of this series with people who haven’t seen it. If you’re one of those folks, know that Amazon Prime members can stream every episode for free on Amazon Prime Video, and non-members can purchase episodes or seasons on Amazon or iTunes. It’s well worth your time.
Without further ado, let’s look back at the first episode: “Gurney’s Inn” from April 9, 2012. If you want to know even more about this episode, photos and clips are still available on the Travel Channel website, though the series ceased production after 2017.
Vital statistics: “Gurney’s Inn” was season 1, episode 1 and featured Gurney’s Inn Resort & Spa in Montauk, New York. It originally aired on April 9, 2012.
What happened: Despite its tourist-friendly location (and TV geeks may also remember that Montauk was the setting for Showtime‘s series The Affair), Gurney’s was struggling to get customers in the door. The property had plenty of history, but that was about all it had left. Anthony not only had to address the hotel’s cleanliness issues and update it for the modern era, but help the Monte family find the roles that suited them best within the business.
This was the first-ever episode of Hotel Impossible, and it shows. The opening is much quieter than some of the later seasons; everyone involved speaks about how they know they need help, and Anthony says in voice-over that they all “know who I am and why I’m here.” That’s a change of pace from other episodes, where some owners seem to be in outright denial, and we see moments of Anthony introducing himself to staff and telling them he’s there to help.
Plus, there’s a ton of hidden-camera footage, which is a device that rarely reappears in later installments (and when it does, it’s not always Anthony who is filming).
It’s clear the show is still finding itself and what it wants to be – which is perfectly normal. Most TV show premieres, or pilots, are significantly different from the rest of the series because they’re the first ones. People don’t know yet what works well and what doesn’t, since they haven’t tried.
For one example, this episode features Karen Gorman as the interior designer; this is her only episode (and her only TV credit at all). She does a great job, but there’s not the banter and spark that Anthony has with the folks who’d become his regular designers, most notably Blanche Garcia.
There’s also a heated disagreement between Karen and Anthony, and contractor Bill Faulk, which is one of the rare times Hotel Impossible shows the contractor for more than a few moments. Presumably, the reason why it’s different here is because of the added complication, but it would have been interesting to learn more about the local contractors and teams than just their names.
Gurney’s Inn is a great place to start with; it’s obvious that the place needs attention, but also obvious why it deserves to be saved. There are a few other episodes, later in Hotel Impossible‘s run, where you just wish Anthony would turn around and walk out the door. If the audience doesn’t care about what happens to the hotel and the people who work in it, the episode really doesn’t have much point.
But by the end of this one, audiences have learned quite a few things about the hotel industry (such as the “ten, four and one” method Anthony picked up at the legendary Plaza Hotel) and Gurney’s Inn (there are seawater shots?). It’s a solid start to a show that’s both informative and entertaining, and still worth watching over again today.
Hotel Impossible can be streamed on Amazon Video and purchased on iTunes.