The Fortune Hotel review – a fiendishly addictive mix of The Traitors and White Lotus

The Fortune Hotel review – a fiendishly addictive mix of The Traitors and White Lotus
By: Culture Posted On: May 13, 2024 View: 16

The Traitors on a beach, anyone? Ever since the BBC’s Claudia Winkleman-in-a-castle contest became a runaway hit, rival broadcasters have been tripping over their hooded cloaks to commission their own version. We’ve had The Traitors in a stratified high-rise (Channel 4’s Rise & Fall), The Traitors go Greek island-hopping (ITVX’s Loaded in Paradise), The Traitors in the Big Brother house (Netflix’s The Trust: A Game of Greed) and The Traitors v James Bond (Prime’s 007: Road to a Million).

Now ITV1 has thrown its fingerless gloves in the ring with The Fortune Hotel, pitched as “a hybrid of The Traitors, The White Lotus and Deal Or No Deal”. Sounds like a horrific Frankenstein format, but somehow it works. Of the new wave of post-Traitors copycat programming, this comes the closest yet. It’s a fiendishly addictive affair that might just be your next reality fix.

Ten pairs of Brits are flown to the Caribbean and compete to win £250,000 by passing around a briefcase full of cash. The aim of the game is to find the money and keep hold of it. With regular case-swapping sessions, that’s easier said than done. If The Traitors is a glorified game of wink murder, this is high-stakes pass the parcel.

Upon arrival at The Fortune Hotel – actually a £500-per-night resort in Grenada – guests are randomly assigned a silver briefcase. Neatly stacked inside one case is the jackpot. Eight are empty. One contains the dreaded “Early Checkout” card. Whoever is left holding the cursed valise at the end of each episode has their stay brought to a premature end. Cue sunburnt skulduggery as they try to throw each other under the airport shuttle bus.

Episodes climax with The Fortune Hotel’s equivalent of The Traitors’ nerve-jangling round tables. Over nightcaps in The Lady Luck Bar, each pair must decide whether to keep or swap their case. Has the couple with the loot managed to dodge suspicion? Will their case be cruelly snatched from their grasp? Who will pass whom the poisoned chalice, like a luggage-based echo of Diane’s fizzy Traitors rosé?

The Fortune Hotel

Filling the Winkleman role as “hotel manager” is actor Stephen Mangan, sporting a dad-on-a-cruise selection of Hawaiian shirts and Man from Del Monte suits. He plays it smoothly polite with a mischievous twinkle and a camp comic edge. I sincerely hope that before the series is over, Mangan will channel Armond from The White Lotus by bingeing on confiscated drugs and defecating in somebody’s suitcase.

Seasoned reality viewers will recognise certain tropes. The glossy setting and slo-mo arrivals consciously evoke Love Island. This sense of deja vu is enhanced by one contestant, “skinfluencer” Louie O’Neill, also appearing in E4’s recent Josh Must Win. Luckily, he is first out. Sighs of relief from the red-faced casting team are almost audible.

Competitors are reminiscent of Race Across the World, with teams of spouses, siblings, best mates and parent-and-child duos. Ages range from 19 to 60. Their strategies are equally varied. A budding actor turns on the waterworks to win sympathy. A criminal investigator lies about what she does for a living, while a barrister immediately becomes a marked man, despite insisting “I’m a lawyer, not a liar”.

The holiday setting plays its part, with the five-star sunshine going straight to players’ heads. An inflatable flamingo acquires surprising importance. One bloke is deemed dodgy for strolling around shirtless. By episode two, someone is sick in an ice bucket and an exit speech takes an accusatory turn. Awkward for them. Great for us viewers.

It’s a long way from the tweedy Scottish Highlands but nods to The Traitors abound, right down to the gold graphics and baroque pop soundtrack. There are plentiful shots of portentous knocks on suite doors. The mere act of coming down for breakfast becomes crucial. If The Traitors often recalls a corporate away day, complete with jolly team-building exercises, this is like a package holiday where you become oddly fixated with that weird couple on the next sun loungers who never seem to speak.

ITV has high hopes for what it loftily describes as “an entertainment event”, airing nightly episodes in the hope it will become a national obsession. Will The Fortune Hotel repay ITV’s faith and justify its bumper budget? Can it produce a meme-worthy equivalent of Jazatha Christie, Diane’s coffin or Paul’s bow? Could the channel even have found a phenomenon to rival The Traitors? Winkleman’s pet owl would probably peck my eyes out if I said yes. So no, not quite. But it’s a deliciously trashy way to while away time until we’re back at Ardross Castle.

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