In the real Fawlty Towers, John Cleese's demented hotelier harried guests, resented all requests for service, was offensive to foreigners and regularly beat his unfortunate Spanish waiter, Manuel, to a pulp. The contestants in this cleverly named new reality show may be tempted at times to similar excesses, as they struggle against the odds to run a small country hotel. For 16 days and nights, 12 Irish celebrities, whose names have yet to be announced, will endeavour to run a real, working hotel in County Louth -- renamed Fáilte Towers for the purposes of this show. You can even apply to book into the hotel between August 2 and 17 through the RTE website (www.rte.ie/failtetowers), and partake in the experiment. The whole thing is being done in aid of charity, and is a clever spin on the reality formula.
Presented by Aidan Power and Baz Ashmawy, the show kicks off tonight and continues tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday, after the main evening news. The 12 brave celebrities who've agreed to take part will have to run the hotel from top to bottom, cooking the breakfasts, making the beds, doing the laundry and scrubbing the toilets -- and all with a smile on their face. Those who don't cut the mustard will face eviction, and the harsh words of the judges.
Each of the celebrities will nominate a charity of their choice, but may soon be praying for eviction, because it promises to be a gruelling 16 days and nights at the inn. Contestants will have to serve two meals a day to the Fáilte Towers guests, while at the same time manage the various functions that land unexpectedly on their doorstep. And our poor things won't even get a decent night's sleep, thanks to Fáilte Towers' fantastic 24-hour room-service policy. I imagine the bedroom applications will be done by lottery, but staying in Fáilte Towers promises to be a bizarre and memorable experience.
We may not know who the contestants are yet, but we do know who the judges are, and they all have rich experience of hotel management and catering. Derry Clarke is an award-winning restaurateur and creator of the esteemed l'Ecrivain restaurant in Dublin. He started cooking at 16 and is known for his culinary innovation. He has regularly appeared on television, and his restaurant recently received a five-star review in The New York Times, so the food the contestants prepare at Failte Towers could not have a more formidable critic.
Sammy Leslie, of the Monaghan Leslies, has rich experience in creating and running hotels. In her early 20s, she undertook the mammoth task of transforming Castle Leslie, which her family have lived in since 1665, into a top hotel. It's now one of the country's most prestigious hotels, and memorably hosted the ill-fated McCartney/Mills wedding in 2002.
Bibi Baskin also knows a thing or two about the business. She abandoned a high-profile media career here, to move to her beloved India and transform a rundown beachside property into an acclaimed heritage hotel. So the contestants can expect stern criticism.