Champneys, TV review: It's rather hard to discern what makes this spa hotel so special


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The Independent Culture

There's nothing futuristic about the 90-year-old spa hotel and subject of ITV documentary Champneys.

Once a favoured spot of Princess Diana, these days you're more likely to see Bobby Davro sweating away on a running machine or Sarah from Girls Aloud treating her mother to a pampering weekend. The staff also spoke in hushed tones about the imminent arrival of "high ranking Arabian royals", but none ever materialised on camera.

This one-off documentary is also part of a series of fly-on-the-wall documentaries about the growing market for luxury goods and services on television lately. On last week's Inside Asprey and Channel 4's The Auction House we saw how the posh shop; this might have been an opportunity to see how they relax in between purchases. Instead, Champneys chose to film its scenes during the four-month period when owner James Purdew was refurbing his rooms and reforming the staff structure.

Guests in towelling robes competed for corridor space with painter-decorators in overalls. As one guest grumbled, when you're tripping over stepladders and faint from paint fumes, it's rather hard to discern what makes Champneys so special: "I think for £540 for two nights, in a hotel room that's akin to the Holiday Inn, it's just a bit much."

The production crew attempted to compensate for this luxury shortfall by stirring up some staff tensions – "But Irina, not everything has been right between you and Kerry, has it?" – but to no avail. On this point, at least, Champneys demonstrated its superior quality. Even the most inexperienced chambermaid knew her job was to clean the dirt, not dish it.