Television Review

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The Independent Culture
IN TV-LAND, old ladies, unless they are sleuths, have just three personality types: dotty, sparkly or gossipy dog-lover. One knew that This Could Be the Last Time (BBC2) wasn't going to produce many surprises when Joan Plowright's character, Rosemary, started playing Miles Davis, enjoying a tipple and periodically saying "Concrete Quarterly". When Dotty Tutin's bright yellow sports car hoved into view, it was only a matter of time before a dog called Willy would follow. In this, among other things, it disappointed: the only other old people were ones who had been robbed of their vitality by a ghastly nursing home whose proprietor spoke to them in the voice I sometimes employ for greeting my cat.

Rosemary, understandably, didn't want to be consigned there by her son- in-law (Keith Barron). So Tutin's character packed her into the sports car and sent her to Paris. At this point, I began to wonder if she wasn't a little demented herself. She would certainly be the first adult in history to be surprised to find that the Parisians are rude, stuck-up gits who correct your French. But surprised she was, and nearly gave up.

Instead, she linked up with a 10-year-old (the divinely beautiful Jonathan Burteaux) on the run with a pocketful of gang money. The pair did all the Parisian cliches, in a mixture of Pidgin French and better English: putting down a patronising maitre d', taking a cab ride round the sights (thereby justifying the location budget) and shamelessly plugging the joys of EuroDisney, while the crooks chased them, in Diva-esque fashion, on a stolen moped.

Anyway, Joan saw off the baddies, rescued the urchin from prosecution and taught the Parisian cops a thing or two. Then she went home with her daughter, who had been miraculously transformed from mouse to makeup- wearer by a French flirtation, and it turned out that she wasn't dotty at all.

Another great French cliche came up in Party of a Lifetime (BBC1), when Oz Clarke went to a Calais hypermarket for cut-price Cava. Party of a Lifetime is yet another transformation show, in which Ainsley Harriot and the quieter, but blonder, Samantha Norman help people throw the bash of their dreams. I don't know who wrote Ainsley's voiceovers, but lines like "A lot of the wine here is available in the UK, but at twice the price - I'll drink to that!" just won't do. Apart from that, it's got all the right ingredients: the opportunity to snoop and sneer, handy DIY hints, Ainsley, who oddly enough did no cooking, outgrowing the format, and some moments of high comedy.

This week's laughs came when a film-tin fountain (it was a Hollywood theme party) sucked up the sludge from the pond-bottom and spat it all over its builders, and from the the look on the face of the recipient of this largesse when he found out that it wasn't merely a surprise birthday party, but a surprise wedding as well. Priceless. I'm going to do a makeover show where people come back from a day out to find the car's been washed and valeted.

Thomas Sutcliffe is away