If you want to know why Julian Fellowes is really worth his bodyweight in gold, then examine his scripts for Downton Abbey with all those supplied to the actors in Hotel Portofino, ITV’s blatant “new” (it screened on BritBox past year) Downton knock-off.
Established in 1926 and starring Natascha McElhone as Bella Ainsworth, the British proprietor of the titular Italian resort, this is basically Downton blended with the sunshine of The Durrells, but a pale imitation of both of those. Pointless to say, a 2nd collection has currently been commissioned and filmed.
There is the inescapable upstairs-downstairs circumstance, with a homely north-country British cook who may well as properly have simply just been referred to as Mrs Patmore. Rather, the writers went to the hard work of naming her Betty. She’s presented to moaning about Italian beef’s lack of ability to make superior dripping and the waxiness of the area potatoes.
And then there’s the waspish aunt, Girl Latchmere, Anna Chancellor channelling Maggie Smith – even though her set-downs are unmemorable compared to Violet Crawley’s. There was a stab at comedy in the first episode when the teetotal Lady Latchmere was served limoncello as a medication, but Chancellor is so considerably normally underserved.
Bella has 3 marriageable young children: two scarcely glimpsed daughters and a son, Lucian (Oliver Dench), who has artistic aspirations. Lucian’s intimate entanglements have been 1 of the main plot motorists. His rotter of a father, the impecunious Cecil (Mark Umbers) wished to marry him off to the daughter of a rich aged flame, a lemon-sucking snob who dismissed Bella as “the form of lady who thinks very little of functioning a hotel”. A trade, in other text.
But Lucian had thrown his net far and extensive – the family’s nanny Constance (Louisa Binder) inevitably catching his eye. And there was a nice Indian doctor (racial stereotyping, or merely also throwing The Great Karma Clinic into the combine?), Anish (Assad Zaman). He addressed a wounded Lucian in the trenches of the First Environment War and now yearned for his former affected person. The homoerotic storyline was one of many straight out of the Downton playbook.
Blackmail was an additional, a nearby fascist intercepting Bella’s added-marital appreciate letters and placing the tighteners on her. Not that Bella experienced significantly cash – specially because Cecil had spent his relatives rely on fund and was not earlier mentioned dipping into Bella’s petty money box. He was in excellent – or instead bad – enterprise, for most of the hotel’s male company look to be dodgy, which includes Adam James (Vigil) as an abusive American art seller.
Without a doubt, if a character was an adult and male in Hotel Portofino, you could safely and securely set him down as a wrong’un. It was all a bit panto – they could as properly have had pencil-slender moustaches and Dick Dastardly laughs. In actuality, the most reliable overall performance here was equipped by the coastline of Croatia, giving a ravishing impersonation of the 1920s Italian Riviera.
As Bella, McElhone was undeniably a course act, whilst so much she has been confined to wandering the lodge with a beatific smile and getting endlessly patient with Cecil. These kinds of saintliness does make you yearn for Basil Fawlty to somehow magically intervene.
The opening episode was titled “First Impressions” – a hostage to fortune if at any time there was 1. My initially impressions of Lodge Portofino have been that the script had competently laid out its storyline arcs, but that the one-dimensional figures weren’t inviting more than enough to sign up for them on their numerous journeys.
Not like The White Lotus, this wasn’t an Italian hotel I’m likely to relish returning to each and every week.