Desperate times, desperate measures and all that .... As the fruit of credit-crunch commissioning continues to take hold of our TVs, the state of the Western world is acknowledged and dissected on screens the size of football pitches across our "broken" nation. And never mind the wars, the economy, the schools and the hospitals – what's really wrong with Britain is that we've all forgotten how to be glamorous.
"People have become sloppy ... lazy in their grooming and in themselves because I think they're more interested in being on the internet, texting, emailing and watching TV," said Joan Collins, herself no stranger to desperate measures (see, or rather don't, The Stud and The Bitch) as she set off, Queen's Speech-style music parping in the background, on her make-over mission in Joan Does Glamour.
We've seen this kind of thing before, of course. But not with our Joanie, and, well, it's been a while since Dynasty and perish the thought that, at 76, all those grooming tips should go to waste. Enter mum Mary, nan Eileen, and Holli, herself desperate to sprinkle a little party magic over her 16th-birthday celebrations in two weeks' time, and who would love nothing more than to see her old Nan "all dolled up". As the Littlefairs ponder who will emerge from the chauffeur-driven Bentley, Eileen voices her hope for "Fergie or Joanne Lumney" while Holli states a preference for Cheryl Cole.
Let's get this out of the way: the Littlefairs are not chavs. Rather, they are an average Plymouth family "too busy doing stuff for other people" and each other that, on the average day, they couldn't really give two stuffs for appearance and just want to be cosy.
Such wishes do not compute on the Collins computer. Whether hovering down the high street, shopping at Sainsbury's or perusing the Primark racks, she is stuck in a 1970s St Tropez time warp. "She was more busy running around looking for something for herself," Nan pointed out astutely, before asking where else JC shopped: "Dior, Saint Laurent, Ralph Lauren ...." In the absence of any of those labels at Drake Circus, "the West Country's most popular shopping centre", Joan and the Littlefairs make do. Desperate times.
Following the usual ups and downs along the way, the Littlefair ladies learn how to make themselves up and remember that dresses still exist and, generally, look more flattering and stylish than fleeces and frumpy house clothes. Especially if you are attending a party. Tears are shed. Nan looks great. Mum looks like Sharon Osbourne. And Holli loses her natural emo-bent to emerge as Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Prairie.
All the while, two white elephants rampage across the room. First, why does one family's desire to learn how to dress up a bit have to be presented as another self-perpetuating example of how crap Britain is? To back up this argument, Collins visits a town-centre bar where (shock!) the women are wearing as little as possible, and then a supermarket, where she bemoans a lack of style amid the spuds.
Secondly, maybe Collins – who admitted in her autobiography that her two children with Anthony Newley "had a terrible life" as she jetted them here and there seeking to further her own career – could learn a thing or two from the Littlefairs. But then An Average British Family Teaches a Self-Obsessed Celebrity About the Things That Really Matter just isn't that snappy a title for a programme.
Think we've got it bad here in Blighty? Tune into Hung, the latest drama from the ever-impressive HBO. Hung tells the story of Ray, played with just the right balance of pathos and poise by Thomas Jane. As the camera takes in derelict building after derelict building, Ray's voice-over tells us: "Everything's falling apart. Thank God my parents aren't around to see the country they loved go to shit .... They taught me to take responsibility .... They taught me to make the best of whatever God gave you."
And what God gave Ray is a large penis. So Ray decides to become a male escort in an effort to pay his bills, fix his house up after an almost operatic fire scene and keep hold of his kids and his sanity. On both sides of the Atlantic, then, desperate times call for desperate measures.