The Spa stars the incomparable Rebecca Front as the long-suffering head of a health, beauty and fitness centre, where staff and clients alike prove a constant source of grief, inconvenience and aggravation. The writer and creator is Derren Litten, who hit comedy pay dirt with Benidorm, ITV's most successful sitcom in years. Cynics might say ITV's only successful sitcom in years.
Despite the involvement of Front and Litten, I still didn't expect much from The Spa. Possibly because the basic premise reminded me of the late and lamentable The Brittas Empire, but more likely because the show is being broadcast on Sky Living. In all my years of flicking up and down the endless array of channels on offer, I have never found reason to stop and dally at Sky Living, or even work out what it was there for.
Well, knock me down with a gym ball, but The Spa is rather splendid. The characters are fun, the storylines outrageous, and the script fearless and successful in its pursuit of big out-loud laughs.
Rebecca Front holds centre stage as Alison, former Leighton Buzzard slimmer of the decade, whose imperious management style comprises brutal insensitivity complemented by a total absence of tact. Front fends off scene-stealing turns from a talented cast, most notably Frances Barber as boozed-up best mate Ginny, Tim Healy as the handyman who is quite literally too big for his breeches and Litten himself - it's your show, mate, you cast yourself in it - as an overweight, wheelchair-bound fitness instructor.Harry Venning, The Stage, 15th February 2013
There are one or two funny moments in this second edition of Derren Litten's new health-club comedy - Alison (Rebecca Front) and her peculiar sleeping arrangements; Davina (Debbie Chazen) trying to realign the chakras of a flatulent punter; and Cheryl Fergison as insulted customer Ms Wylde being fobbed off with a colonic. The performances make this watchable.
But I'm still waiting for Frances Barber, as Alison's stable-owning mate Ginny, to get something worth her spit. And the addition of a Polish chef/plumber called - wait for it - Bolek seems to be heading nowhere and is just another sign of the woolly randomness of the script.Patrick Mulkern, Radio Times, 14th February 2013
While watching this first episode, I felt slightly irritated by the lack of storyline. Actually, 'lack of' should read 'pretty much absence of'.UK TV Reviewer, 8th February 2013
Comparisons between The Spa and The Brittas Empire, which was set in a leisure centre, have inevitably happened yet Derren says "Bizarrely, I've never seen an episode", but was aware of the basics - receptionist with a baby in the cupboard being one of them.Elliot Gonzalez, 7th February 2013
Rebecca Front does a professional job as the spa manager Alison, keeping the show on the road while her staff, ranging from Nadine Marshall's tyrannical fitness instructor to Tim Healey's well-endowed handyman, threaten to derail it at every turn.
Highlights include the dippy receptionist confusing 'obese' with 'a beast', and an extended sequence in which a cleaner threatens suicide from the roof to a soundtrack so predictable that, if nothing else, makes the art of sitcom-writing look very easy indeed. Cheerful enough, then, but very short on laughs. Benidorm meets The Brittas Empire it is.Gabriel Tate, Time Out, 7th February 2013
Rebecca Front is almost unrecognisable as blonde health club manageress and "Leighton Buzzard's slimmer of the decade" Alison Crabbe. Cheryl Fergison (EastEnders' Ev) plays an affronted punter, Bergita (sounds like "big eater"), while Tim Healy is a well-endowed handyman barely contained by his shorts. And the ever-arch Frances Barber pops up as... well, her role isn't clear in this first episode; maybe next week.
So, a promising ensemble for a sitcom that reads like a retread of The Brittas Empire, is a tad short on laughs and perhaps needed more sessions on a cross trainer before public exposure. Still, The Spa is the brainchild of Derren Litten, creator of the heroically bawdy Benidorm, which I won't hear a word against, so it could well take off in coming weeks. And this time, Litten has put himself in the frame as an aerobics instructor in a wheelchair.Patrick Mulkern, Radio Times, 7th February 2013
The spa and fitness industry gets a saucy scrub in this new sitcom led by British Comedy Award-winning Rebecca Front of The Thick Of It fame. Fresh from Benidorm writer Derren Litten, this yogatastic romp sees Front shimmy into the spanking new uniform of The Spa's team manager Alison Crabbe - Leighton Buzzard's slimmer of the decade. Subtle it ain't, so only time will tell if this one massages its way into our funny bones.Carol Carter and Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, Metro, 7th February 2013
Benidorm writer Derren Litten's new comedy is set in a health club, an arena ripe for humour. And with Rebecca Front shining in the role of contemptuous spa manager Alison the series is more hit than miss. She wants to turn around the fortunes of the spa but is hampered by a wheelchair-bound aerobics instructor (Litten) and a handyman (Tim Healy) with a penchant for wearing "sex pest shorts".Simon Horsford, The Telegraph, 6th February 2013