Monday 23 September 2019

5 good reasons to watch the new series of 'The Shelbourne'

RTE's series revolving around the Shelbourne Hotel is the antidote to dark, depressing telly

The Shelbourne Series 2 Pictured is Ivan King – Director of Conference and Banqueting New series starts Thursday, 5th November 8.30pm on RTÉ One
The Shelbourne Series 2 Pictured is Gary Hughes Head Chef for the Shelbourne New series starts on Thursday, 5th November 8.30pm on RTÉ One
The Shelbourne Series 2 Pictured is Denis O'Brien - Head Concierge at The Shelbourne New series starts on Thursday, 5th November 8.30pm on RTÉ One
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Everything on telly has to be “dark” nowadays, doesn’t it? No show is taken seriously if it’s not “dark”. That small word can encompass many things: moral ambiguity, sexual transgression, ultra-violence, depressing themes, depressing situations, depressing people – just depressing, full-stop.

But surely it can’t be good for the soul and/or psyche to spend so much time wallowing in horror, despair and trauma. We need to let in the light sometimes, televisually speaking, and no better way to do that than with a bit of The Shelbourne, RTE’s fly-on-the-wall documentary series which returns tonight for its second six-part run.

Yes, it’s fluffy, inconsequential and you’ll have forgotten you even watched it within 15 seconds of the end credits rolling. That’s the whole point, geniuses. Here’s five reasons to give The Walking Dead a rest and check into The Shelbourne instead:

The programme looks gorgeous

One of the country’s swankiest hotels, located in a beautiful Georgian building on Stephen’s Green, with all those rich fabrics, deep-pile carpets and elegant rooms…point the camera anywhere and the view is magnificent. (And, on my salary, the closest thing to actually being there.)  The first episode kicks off with the ladies from Ladies Day at the Dublin Horseshow descending upon The Shelbourne’s No 27 bar.  You can't get more glam than that.  And there's a little bit of drama as the ladies compete in the hotel's own Most Stylish Lady competition.

The staff are very likeable

They’re also cheery, diligent, inventive and friendly, and committed to excellence. Did you know they literally measure the smoked salmon for functions? They do. This is a bunch of people who you really root for and want to do well.

You can dip in and out

Missed an episode? Doesn’t matter. Missed the start of this episode? Equally doesn’t matter. The editing is brisk, the characters are manifold, and the programme skips along, breezily and enjoyably.

The hotel itself is falling over with history... much so that concierge Denis O’Brien, one of the stars of season one, has become a sort of unofficial Shelbourne historian. Adolf Hitler’s brother worked here, for God’s sake. Adolf Hitler’s brother! And that’s not even starting on the Grace Kelly connection…

It won’t let you down

Yes, in the manner of all those complex, serious, “dark” dramas – by leading you on for years and years, and then fading away before things are resolved. You won’t spend endless hours struggling to follow various narrative threads in the vain hope that they’ll all tie up satisfactorily by the end. (SPOILER: in most dramas, they don’t.) The Shelbourne, being factual, doesn’t have a storyline; it’s just a snapshot of life in this place, a series of vignettes.

The Shelbourne, RTE One, 8.30pm Thursdays

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