Stephen Mangan (centre) and the cast of The Fortune Hotel (Photo: TVNZ)
Stephen Mangan (centre) and the cast of The Fortune Hotel (Photo: TVNZ)

Pop CultureJune 7, 2024

Love The Traitors? Make The Fortune Hotel your next reality fix

Stephen Mangan (centre) and the cast of The Fortune Hotel (Photo: TVNZ)
Stephen Mangan (centre) and the cast of The Fortune Hotel (Photo: TVNZ)

TVNZ’s new reality series is like The Traitors on vacation. 

This is an excerpt from our weekly pop culture newsletter Rec Room. Sign up here. 

What’s all this then? 

Pack your bag and check into The Fortune Hotel, TVNZ+’s curious new reality series. Hosted by “hotel manager” Stephen Mangan (Green Wing, The Split), the show sees ten British couples travel to the Caribbean, where each pair is given a suitcase on arrival. Only one case contains the cash prize of £250,000, and as the game unfolds, the couples must win challenges to control the game and work out who among them holds the prize case. 

Players need to find the cash case and keep hold of it to win the money. They must also avoid their case being stolen or swapped by another team, or even worse, ending up with the cursed case that contains the “early check out” card. It’s a game of bluff and banter, as couples try to avoid suspicion while simultaneously trying to get their hands on the winning case.

What’s good?

The Fortune Hotel is a mish-mash of a variety of TV shows, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s got the secret suitcases of Deal or No Deal, the sea and sun of Love Island, the five star hotel glamour of White Lotus and the wacky physical challenges of The Amazing Race. It’s more obsessed with luggage than Border Patrol, but mostly, it feels like The Traitors on vacation. The dark, foreboding Scottish castle setting of The Traitors has been replaced by the bright Caribbean sunshine, and Claudia Winkleman’s glorious fringe swapped out for Stephen Mangan’s cheery Hawaiian shirts. 

And why not? The Traitors is arguably the best reality show of all, and Fortune Hotel leans in hard to its popular format. It too features a group of likeable, eclectic strangers who are chucked together in a remote place, and who know they can’t trust one another: “watch the people, not the cases,” Mangan continually warns. 

Contestants Chloe and Louis discover what’s in their case (Photo: TVNZ)

Only one couple has the £250,000 in their suitcase, and discovering you hold the cash is both a blessing and a curse. “I knew I could smell a handbag,” Joanne squeals when she opens her case full of money, but her son Will is worried his mother’s joy will betray them to the treasure hunters. 

Secrecy and trust are key here, as the players overthink every innocent move from their competition. Which couple is too eager to swap their case? Who’s behaving suspiciously and which couple appears too happy, even though they’re filming a TV show in a tropical paradise? 

Like The Traitors, The Fortune Hotel casts its contestants well. There’s a great mix of everyday people of different backgrounds and ages, from the barrister skilled in bluffing and manipulating to the mother and daughter who inexplicably carry an inflatable flamingo everywhere. My favourite pairing from episode one was Lesley and Gary, who when it seemed like they might be sent home just as the game began, immediately looked on the bright side. “At least the room’s nice,” Lesley said cheerfully.  

What’s not so good

Is luggage exciting? Not unless you’re a sniffer dog. The Fortune Hotel is low stakes entertainment, and initially, the challenges aren’t that challenging and there’s not a lot of tension. It’s missing the atmospheric theatrics of The Traitors, but as the game unfolds further and alliances begin to form, The Fortune Hotel could very much turn out to be much more than your average holiday. 

Verdict: Watch it

The Fortune Hotel is a ray of reality sunshine in the middle of winter. Stephen Mangan is a jaunty host, the show features a bunch of likeable characters, and it’s a fun piece of television to escape into. 

The Fortune Hotel screens on Thursdays at 8.30pm on TVNZ2 and streams on TVNZ+. 

Keep going!