TV preview: Champneys

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We all enjoy a little pampering every now and then, but few of us will ever get to enjoy the treats on offer at Britain’s premiere health spa - Champneys.

Guests must pay top dollar to enjoy its luxurious surroundings but, according to this documentary, whether you’re royalty or somebody who’s saved up for years for the pleasure, you’ll be treated the same as soon as you walk through the establishment’s doors - and quite right, too.

The calming, relaxing ambience may look effortless, but as the staff featured here reveal, it takes a lot of hard work to make everything appear so simple.

“The whole persona is this relaxed, calm environment - and then the client goes out the door and you turn into a mad hatter,” says Audrey, who should know what she’s talking about - she’s one of the place’s longest-serving members of staff, with 40 years of service under her belt.

Much of the focus of the programme is on owner Stephen Purdew, as he makes sure Champney’s high standards are maintained which, as we soon find out, is easier said than done.

As the establishment in Tring opens its doors to ITV’s cameras, Stephen remarks on how the place has been forced to change: “Now the guest is expecting every aspect, not just the spa services and the fitness and treatments and all the other things and classes. They want a great hotel experience.”

For the prices they’re paying, that’s surely not too much to ask, is it?

You would think not, so perhaps the proprietor is just feeling the strain a little - after all, the place has just had a four-month refurbishment and now a new batch of staff members are about to begin work. They’ve been taken on to improve standards in key areas, and if they fail, well, it doesn’t bear thinking about...

One chap who makes a big impression is head waiter Charles. Full of charm, he treats female customers to a dance and doesn’t mind flirting as he serves up their sumptuous lunches - in fact, he’s so camera-friendly, we wouldn’t put it past ITV to give him his own spin-off show.

But like most businesses, Champneys is really all about its customers - without them on side, it’s nothing. Unfortunately, not everyone loves it - a mystery shopper writes a terrible review, complaining about dirty plates left by a previous occupant of her room.

The drama really kicks in when two managers with a personality clash have to work together to put things right - forget the soaps or even Mr Selfridge, sometimes real life is far more intriguing than anything a scriptwriter can come up with.

The programme certainly gives viewers an insight into how the other half lives - but will it persuade any of us to part with our hard-earned cash and pay one of the Champneys spas around the country a visit?

Perhaps - providing Stephen gets to grips with how times have changed and keeps his staff in line, anything is possible.

CHAMPNEYS, ITV, Thursday 9pm

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