Hotel GB - the place where everyone does not know your name, necessarily, but you'll know theirs.

The idea is a noble one - take 14 unemployed trainees, spend a week getting them up to speed running a city hotel, equip them all for jobs in the real world, two lucky people end up working for Gordon Ramsay and Mary Portas, and all the proceeds go to charity. Nothing to argue with, there.

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Hotel GB - is Gordon going soft in his middle age?

This week-long show kicked off on Monday, and it was immediately clear that it split every reality TV atom it could think of - there was an even an unplanned voluntary eviction.

It really did have all the ingredients. With Paddy McGuinness assuming what we'll call 'Dermot duties', there was a plethora of celeb expertise on offer - from Gordon and Gok at the guzzling end of things, to Portas and Piper making a smooth run at hospitality.

The revealed brick and polished floor of the recruiting process was straight out of Dragon's Den, while the Desk and quiet conflab were pure Apprentice, but other elements provided the novelty.

Initially, I was worried that Gordon was no longer the beast he was. Physically, he'd obviously been 'California-ed' - slimmer, less lined, bird's nest hair expensively tousled - but the transformation seemed to go deeper. His first question to Gok Wan was, "How's dad?" My heart warmed, but I did wonder if he was coming down with something.

His Billy Goat's Gruff routine was tempered, or perhaps he just found his perfect sparring partner in Mary Portas - she's Sharon Osbourne, less temper, more humour. I'm definitely a fan.

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Mary Portas had her work cut out in the hospitality department

And fans of the old Ramsay must have been relieved that, once the aprons were on, it was very much business as usual. "You made hard work out of nothing," he told one quivering sous-chef. "You're prepared to put s**t out, and I'm not prepared to let you do that. One more chance..." "Sleep when you're on the dole, not when you're working," he subtly advised his posse. So Gordon must be feeling all right after all. Phew.

Going behind the scenes of hotels is always fun, and the format of 14 trainees and the variety of the jobs at hand meant it was never at risk of dragging. There they were with their tattoos, criminal convictions, yawns and charm in plentiful supply - cheeky Tom on reception was my early favourite, although I have a feeling Patrick the Chamber-person will be able to surprise us.

HIGHLIGHT: Housekeeper Kim Woodburn's secret sojourn to try out the gym, aka try out bemuscled Dr Christian. Her innuendoes and mugging for the camera would have given an early-career Julian Clary a run for his money.

They couldn't all hack it, inevitably. Natasha, pretty and clear-eyed, couldn't cope with dummy run reception and walked before a single guest had been booked in. Cheeky Tom still managed to book two guests to a single room - cosy - but his grin stayed fixed, and he's not going anywhere.

Competition consists of pressure for Mary Portas's team - on hospitality and spa! - to make as much money as Gordon's lot, who have the restaurant, bar and... gym, which seemed a bit assymetric. It meant Portas was fishing for ideas, including spa manager Katie Piper's suggestion of going into the restaurant and offering manicures to diners. I'd love to see the look on Gordon's face...

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