Why You Should Watch… The Hotel with Mark Jenkins on Channel 4

A bitter-sweet mix of complete unadulterated silliness and rather touching human frailty - find a place for it in your Sunday night, says Tim Glanfield

It would be rather lazy to describe a documentary about an eccentric hotelier in Torquay as ‘the real Fawlty Towers’ – but it’s Christmas, a time when dancing dog talent shows are proudly shown on prime time television and traffic jams are considered news, so you’ll forgive my lack of imagination. The Hotel on Channel 4 really is the real Fawlty Towers…


Meet Mark Jenkins, one of the most screen-friendly documentary subjects ever to have walked the face of the planet. Set in his bizarre ways, workaholic and loner Mark owns the somewhat outmoded Grosvenor Hotel in Torquay, and in his own words is “selling memories” by providing the Great British Holiday on the English Riviera.

Accompanied by his two loyal aides Alison and Christian (think Karren and Nick to Lord Sugar) Mark is determined to turn the fortunes of the Grosvenor around, and save what remains of his fortune invested in the project before it disappears along with the Torquay sunshine.

However, how do you help a man who insists on living in the hotel and doing everything himself? And how do you attract new customers to a hotel when Mark’s idea of modern entertainment is the Mark Jenkins-fronted Party Night (see the revealing pics from our visit here) and Heath Robinson games invented on the fly around the hotel’s swimming pool?

A modernity-sceptic, Mark realises he has to move into the 21st Century, but does it with such caution that even when the hotel finally accepts online bookings, he somehow manages to have no room for his first guests.  Yes, it’s almost as if he’s his own worst enemy… like that Basil Fawlty bloke.

But one thing Mark does like about the modern age (along with chain smoking) is Twitter. If you don’t believe me, here’s what he told us when RadioTimes.com visited his hotel last year:

In series three of The Hotel, Channel 4 God bless ’em, have returned to The Grosvenor to investigate Mark’s latest folly; his attempt to beat the global recession by attracting upmarket guests. By the looks of the preview clips (below) it’s perhaps not going to be quite as simple as Mark first thought to turn his Torquay tavern into a 5-star boutique experience… but that’s why we’re tuning in.

The Hotel returns to Channel 4 at 8pm tonight

Without a doubt one of the finest, funniest and addictive ob-docs to come from a very high-quality crop commissioned by Channel 4 over the last few years, The Hotel is must-watch television. A bitter-sweet mix of complete unadulterated silliness and rather touching human frailty, if you haven’t already, this is a programme you should find a place for in your Sunday night.