Last Night's Television - Kirsten's Topless Ambition, BBC3; Desperately Hungry Housewives, BBC1

A nude awakening

"Here's my quandary," said Kirsten O'Brien, "I've been a kids' presenter for 10 years, I've seen other presenters shoot past me in the fame game and quite often it's been because they've got their norks out for a men's mag. So, should I do it? Does it work?" The pitch for
Kirsten's Topless Ambition was admirably direct, including a bit of jaunty cleavage juggling of the kind that you wouldn't generally expect to find on CBBC. But it raised an immediate question, which was whether there was a market for Kirsten's norks. To give her credit, she voiced this objection herself, some 20 seconds after everybody sitting at home had muttered it, but for the purposes of her documentary she then had to pretend for at least 40 minutes that the answer wasn't glaringly obvious.

Kirsten's quandary had been provoked, she explained, by the recent death of Mark Speight, her SMart! co-presenter, an event which had got her wondering about how long she could continue to effervesce as a kind of electronic big sister. She does a bit of stand-up comedy, but she'd realised that wasn't exactly a high road to the feature pages of Hello! magazine and the fact that a close friend, Anjellica Bell, had bounced out of children's telly and on to The One Show, by way of a steamy lingerie shoot, had got her thinking. Anjellica, by the way, definitely thought Kirsten should go for it. "You've worked with an aardvark for how long?... Come on... you've got to do something drastic." Kirsten's informal street poll on her own celebrity status ("Do you know who I am?") confirmed that urgent action might be needed. A nice man in London's Old Compton Street wanted to have his picture taken with her, but even he concluded that she was "a bit too kiddie-kiddie" to be taken seriously.

Kirsten's dad thought she should make the move to current affairs, but Kirsten herself wasn't sure. "That wouldn't suit my personality at all," she said. "Because I cackle all the time." For a brief moment I had a tantalising vision of a Newsnight round-table discussion about the credit crunch, co-hosted by a giggling Kirsten and a boisterous puppet anteater, but then it faded, and Kirsten set off to embarrass men by asking them to explain exactly why it was that she hadn't been inundated with requests to get her kit off. Some looked awkward and complimented her. Some were brutally honest. "Men are not going to wank over you," said a stylist called Nick Ede, something of a good news/bad news package I would have thought. And when Kirsten finally got a go-see at FHM, to see whether they might consider making her image more adult, she eventually got the unvarnished bottom line from the deputy editor, Chris Bell. "I think you're kind of borderline... you've got an acceptable face, you've got an acceptable body... It's not absolutely knock-out." "No, no... that's just what I want to hear," said Kirsten pluckily when he expressed unease at his own candour.

In other words, Kirsten's quandary wasn't really a quandary at all. She didn't have to fret about trading self-respect for a career boosting double-page spread or sending the wrong message to the young viewers who might see her as a role model, because the serpent wasn't going to come sidling round to make the offer in the first place. Entirely understandably, Kirsten had a little weep at this conclusion. It's one thing to describe yourself as gawky and lacking in sensual glamour, quite another to have a strange man say it to your face. But I hope she will cheer up a little if she can bear to watch the film again when a little time has passed. It was, after all, something of an eat- your-cake-and-have-it deal, since she got to keep her clothes on, while simultaneously conducting an hour-long audition for more grown-up forms of presenting. And while I'm guessing that the right kind of external make-over and bustier would enable Kirsten to at least have a crack at matching Fearne Cotton on the glamour front, there's no makeover on earth that could enable Fearne to match Kirsten when it came to sharpness of response. The truth is that she doesn't really want to be famously sexy, she wants to be gainfully employed and since she can be funny and frank and natural on screen she shouldn't have a problem.

It would be easy to conclude that the anorexia and bulimia that featured in Desperately Hungry Housewives was another facet of the sexualised, appearance-driven culture, which was one of Kirsten's targets. But Suzanne Lynch's film made it clear that, while media images might play a part in these illnesses, there's no simple direct connection. The women in her film, all of them older than the teenage stereotype of those suffering from food disorders, had diverted deep personal grief and anxiety through their fridges and store cupboards. One can only hope that the claimed increase in older women suffering in this way was a bit of documentarist hyperbole, because it looked grim.

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam