Seaside Hotel, All 4 (2 stars)

Seaside Hotel, All 4

Popular Danish upstairs-downstairs period drama struggles to avoid the traps of cliché

There are those who prefer their cosy period dramas with a splash of murder, and Danish drama Seaside Hotel does its best to slide into classic Sunday-night viewing mode. Billed as 'Downton Abbey meets Agatha Christie', the series begins with virtuous and determined country girl Fie starting her new job at a coastal hotel along the North Sea circa 1928. Her father (suffering from that tropiest of tropes: the period-drama cough) sagely warns her to stay away from the rich guests and their loose ways.

The same upper-class families frequent this hotel year after year, so they're already familiar with each other's peccadillos: there's the philandering actor, the boozed-up hotel owner, the nouveau riche social climber, and the desperately bored and horny teenager. Each is more archetype than character, which, admittedly, is to be expected from the genre. Throw in a few shady dealings and bourgeois nose-turnings over the sherry glass, and it's an old-fashioned cocktail of tensions that even a sea breeze can't fix.

The trouble is that Seaside Hotel tries to do too much, and therefore does nothing especially well. It's not clever enough to be a mystery à la Christie; not camp enough to be a romantic soap; and doesn't tie its characters to their time and place well enough to be a convincing period piece, as Downton Abbey, for all its foibles, did successfully. In early episodes, the camera has a predilection for close-up shots of food preparation, as if this might ground the show to a sense of historicity, but instead only results in a jarring flow to the scenes.

If you can get halfway into this six-parter, the characters begin to endear themselves – likely because they're as bland and familiar as a warm sweater – but unfortunately the show never manages to find its focus. And with (nearly) as much death and starched collar on the telly these days as there are grains of sand on this beach, it's difficult to make the case for Seaside Hotel.

Episodes watched: 4 of 6

Seaside Hotel is available on All 4, Friday 22 November.


1. Wendy Berentsen26 Dec 2019, 11:00am Report

This is just the kind of escapism entertainment I was looking for as I yearn for some relief from the dreadful world situation we are currently experiencing. This is a shallow and unfair critique of a jewel of a series. Thank goodness for Danish tv showing us the way yet again. I highly recommend Seaside Hotel.

2. Tony Collins23 Jan 2021, 3:40pm Report

This was a delightful series. Unlike the critic above I actually watched the whole shebang. I will admit the first episode was a bit of a slog, mainly because there were so many characters to get to know. However, the persistence was well rewarded as a delighful box set emerged. Interest was piqued by knowing what the characters didn't, in that the 1928 Wall Street Crash was coming. The English subtitles were good with only the occasional unintended humour. I had some business with some Danish people in the 1970-80's (actually mostly in Jutland where the drama is set) and I certainly recognised certain character traits in some of the cast. I was quite disappointed when I had devoured every series available.

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