I may be a little late to the potentially Very niche Canadian motel renovation party, but I finally watched Motel Makeover on Netflix and I have Some Thoughts.
The basic premise of this show is: two self-described #girlbosses bought a run-down motel in Sauble Beach—a sleepy vacation town on Lake Huron—and set about renovating it to be as #instragrammable as possible (by which I mean that they go from charging $60/night to $400/night, because what is a motel if not a luxury experience??). And we, the audience, go on this renovation journey with them, from the ugly terrazzo tiles to the put-upon rural contractors.
Now, when it comes to movies and TV, I have often been the victim of my own expectations, and this was really no exception. Around the time I saw they were putting a pink neon “good vibes only” sign in EVERY room, I thought, “surely this is satire.” And then, when the fourth episode began with a newsreel of ominous COVID-19 coverage, I thought, “surely this is a scripted retelling of The Shining! They’re trapped in a remote hotel, isolated from the world, with people they claim to love and respect! This can only end one way! (axe murder)”
Perhaps surprising only myself, I was wrong. But I do still feel that my version would’ve been better and more relevant to the experiences of a larger audience, in this, The Year of Our Crone 2021. So, may I humbly present a mostly new, variously horrific, 6-episode experience: The Cheugy.
Episode 1: Moteliers
The existing first episode has a lot worth saving: the part where they sneer at the lack of dairy alternatives in the town’s cafe; the part where they’re eating in the town’s diner and loudly talking about how they need to transform the restaurant part of their motel because there isn’t ANYWHERE to eat dinner in this town; and the on-site property manager’s apartment makeover, complete with the heavy-handed metaphor for their entire design philosophy—a dishwasher that they painted pink instead of getting it cleaned and repaired.
We’ll move some stuff up from later episodes though—this pilot should present the complete original vision for the rooms, the lobby, the pool, and the restaurant so that viewers have a defined benchmark against which to measure the chaos that will ensue. And if we could cut in the walkthrough of the restaurant space where they make fun of the rural Canadian contractor for never having eaten avocado toast? Chef’s kiss.
Finally, we close out the pilot with that (surely staged?) existing clip where they’re talking about “this virus going on in China” but immediately dismiss it because “it seems really far away.”
Episode 2: March 2020
This one will open exactly the same way as the original episode 4: just a Michael Bay apocalypse movie-style newsreel about The Pandemic. And we’ll follow it up by reusing the existing vlog footage of them talking about how wild it is that this disease is spreading so quickly and how eerie and empty the motel feels without the contractor and his team working away.
Next we’ll show the Netflix camera team setting up stationary cameras all around the property and teaching the women how to use the talking head/confession booth area. And we can keep the scene of the women sitting around the dining room table in the on-site apartment kitchen talking about how some people are stuck quarantining at home but they’re stuck quarantining at work.
Episode 2 will end with the two women huddled around their computer, trying to find vintage photos of the motel online (so they can make a cute retro gallery wall, duh!), but actually finding articles about how the original owners of the motel were serial killers a la l’auberge rouge. Luckily, they’re looking for pictures not words, so it’s just the audience seeing the headlines about the killings while the women talk about how cute and vintage the pictures are.
Episode 3: The Motel Must Go On
With the contractors still safely self-quarantining offsite, it’s back to the drawing board on the renovation plans: just what all can they accomplish on their own? The girls decide to roll up their sleeves and Get To Work.
In the original cut, they make so many claims about doing things themselves that the show then immediately counters with footage of the contractor’s team actually doing those things. In this version, all the materials were delivered before the world shut down, and so now it’s time for us to see them really try to live up to their own lies.
There will be a scene with vlog-style footage of the blonde one documenting all of the research she’s doing for how to lay down vinyl floors. I want to see giant eye bags, I want to see a clock blinking 2:37AM, I want to see a youtube history with at least two pages-worth of instructional videos watched all the way through and the faint outline of what might be a ghost in the corner of the room. She should mutter to herself as she discovers that the video she’s on now is just a reupload of one she’s already watched, and we’ll watch the light die in her eyes as she chooses to just keep watching it because time is fake and nothing matters.
Then, a dramatic cut to full makeup, designer overalls, hair tied up with a little bandana: we’re going to put this research into practice and lay down these floors! We’re back to being a fun and peppy DIY show about Girl Power™! What even happened in that last scene—did you imagine that??
Episode 4: Is REDRUM like rosé?
Luckily, the building materials weren’t the only thing successfully delivered before the self-isolation set in.
We next see our girls working on the lobby space. The brunette is attempting to tile the lobby’s front desk and the blonde is laying on the ground, staring at the ceiling and just starting to levitate like she’s possessed. The brunette opens up what she believes to be a new box of tiles but which ends up being a case of rosé for their rosé-only bar (a real thing from the show). As soon as the brunette calls out “OMG rosé!!!” the levitation cuts, they’re both shrieking in joy, and it’s like possession never happened.
After an unclear number of days drinking the rosé, the women get an email from a couple who wants to partner with them on the motel’s restaurant, saying that some of the COVID restrictions have been lifted and when can they come up to the site to interview? Our girls are absolutely giddy at the idea of interacting with other people, and we cut to night vision footage of the two of them frantically painting a statement wall in the restaurant space at 4AM as one or more ghostly figures watch on from the edges of the frame.
Here we can keep the footage of meeting the restaurant partners and their official sign-on. Keen-eyed viewers might recognize the restaurant partners from an article about a murder-suicide that flashed on screen at the end of episode 2, but those of us who were dicking around on our phones while this was on in the background should be totally unsuspicious. Especially when this episode ends with the existing vlog footage of the brunette DIY-ing the tiled tabletops for the restaurant patio! Totally normal content—nothing spooky here!
Episode 5: Heeeere’s #GirlBoss!!
The restaurant partners never seem to be there when the women are looking for them. But after a long day of ordering useless decor items online, the blonde wanders down to the rosé bar to find the pregnant restaurant partner behind the bar, smiling and handing her a glass of wine.
The blonde starts venting about the stresses of this motel renovation endeavor. In this safe, rosé-based space, the blonde really starts airing some of her frustrations about the insecurity of entrepreneuring: no real vacations, no real weekends, no comfort of passing hard decisions up the ladder. Only the pressure of knowing that other people rely on you for their livelihood; but on whom can YOU rely?? Because the answer isn’t always yourself or your partner (who maybe doesn’t see eye to eye with you on everything). Maybe we get some backstory about how she used to have a soul-crushingly monotonous, ultra plush office job with a great pension where she did zero actual work, and sometimes she really wishes she could go back. Sometimes, she wishes that she’d never agreed to this motel scheme at all.
The restaurant partner/bartender comforts her, encourages her to go confront the brunette with these feelings, to correct any misconceptions she might have and really just talk it all out. The blonde agrees blankly and we see her stand up and walk out into the night.
We cut to the brunette, eyes glazed over, typing away on her computer. We hear the whoosh of an email sent and then she stands up, unblinking. She pours herself a glass of rosé at the barcart and, in the pink light from the ‘good vibes only’ neon sign, we see her snap out of this reverie as her phone rings. It’s the blonde, and she’s asking if the brunette will come meet her in one of the guest rooms to take a look at what she thinks might be a burst pipe.
The brunette is absolutely sagging under the pressure of yet another renovation complication. But she takes a deep breath and heads out the door.
In what remains of the episode, we just see cuts of dead-audio footage from the cameras the crew had placed around the property months before: the women arguing in a guest bathroom. The blonde on the floor crying as the brunette stands on the toilet and tries to pop a bubble in the ceiling’s drywall. The two of them drenched in burst pipe water, absolutely screaming at each other. Storming out of the bathroom and into the partially finished bedroom, littered with tools. The brunette throws up her hands and walks out. The blonde, stock still and dumbfounded, is staring at an axe on the ground. A glitch in the footage and we’re looking at an empty room. Cut to the blonde stalking down the upper walkway, right towards the camera, wielding the axe.
Episode 6: Hiatus
This final episode is purely a true crime documentary. The editors at Netflix can piece together some of the intros from Unsolved Mysteries to really give it that Robert Stack flavor. We’ll open with hand-cam footage following the cops as they arrive on the scene: the blonde is floating face down in the algae-ridden pool and the brunette has yet to be located.
Cut to a talking head interview with the contractor they’d hired in episode 1—he explains that he’d started getting weird emails from the women a couple of weeks ago. At first he dismissed them, but his wife had convinced him to go check in on the property. We see some security camera footage of him walking around the property, dated a couple of days ago, but he doesn’t encounter anyone or anything. One of the emails had said that they’d been joined onsite by the restaurant partners, but he didn’t see any cars on the property and the restaurant kitchen definitely still seemed unused.
He tells the camera that he assumed they’d just packed it in and abandoned the site. But then he got another email, even weirder than the others—the subject line and body was just one phrase on repeat: peace love wine peace love wine peace love wine. This was clearly unhinged behavior, and so he decided to ask his cop buddy what to do.
Then we see the cops find the brunette’s body, axe in her skull, body curled up in the shower of the King-bed prototype room, the door completely hacked apart; the cops shoo away the camera crew so they don’t contaminate the scene.
We cut to a local conspiracy theorist who supplies us with a little history. Now even the people who weren’t really paying attention will know that this used to be a murder motel, and that the restaurant partners were dead the whole time!! We’ll also throw a few old newspaper articles up on the screen—one of them should show a party at the old motel, with our two girls clearly pictured in attendance, smiling out at the audience, glasses of rosé raised high.
Then just a shot of the cops/coroners clearing the scene; they drive away. We see some slight movement through the window of the restaurant but we’re zooming out too soon to be sure what it was. We end with a drone shot of the town and peaceful Lake Huron.
I am literally begging any Sauble Beach teenagers to make this into a short film. My contact info is in the author card below; I will send you the script for free. Or even if Netflix wants to steal another one of my ideas, please take this one. I have not stopped cackling since my body was possessed by this concept.