Television double acts come in two standard packs. There's chalk and cheese, which is the flavour adopted for Oz and James Drink to Britain, a strenuously artificial odd-couple pub-crawl. And then there's chalk and chalk, in which the presenters come as a kind of two-for-the-price-of-one deal. Trinny and Susannah have always been a chalk-and-chalk affair, as interchangeable, to the casual viewer, as Ant and Dec. Somebody recently told me that the way to distinguish the latter is to remember that Ant is the one that looks like an ant, but I haven't found this mnemonic entirely helpful. Does it mean Ant is the little tiny one or the one with the big domey forehead from which you can imagine wavery antennae emerging? Then again, why worry? With Trinny and Susannah, I find it helps to think of Susanna and the Elders – because Susannah is the one with the Rembrandtesque bust and Trinny isn't – but I can see that this aide-memoire might not have mass appeal.
In Trinny and Susannah Meet Their Match, the basic shtick of flicking through people's wardrobes with a curl in their lip has been given a modest twist. "They're going to look, listen and learn... and only then have their say," promised the voice-over as the fashion mavens submitted themselves to be made over by a group of rural ladies – pillars of the local church, council and Women's Institute and true devotees of the floral print. "Look, listen and learn", unsurprisingly, turned out to be a euphemism for sneer, carp and gasp condescendingly. "How old are you, Louise," Trinny asked the local lady mayor. "Thirty-eight," replied Louise. "I thought you were about 50," said Trinny bluntly. "We need to drop the granny, honey, we need to find the sexy woman lurking inside." Louise wasn't sure that would sit well with the mayoral chain. Meanwhile, Susannah was trying to get Emma, the local Sunday-school teacher, to get in touch with her inner hooker. "It's like someone just sicked up a garden," she said of the floral print she was wearing, "What about getting a bit more tit out?" Emma sturdily took the view that her breasts were nobody's business but her husband's.
It's only fair to admit that they almost all looked better after their final makeover, apart from the lady vicar, Rosie, who was absurdly dressed as an Ann Summers executive, in "go-forth- and-multiply" high heels and a white choker that was doing its best to look like a bedroom accessory rather than a badge of clerical office. Then again, they would have looked better even in hessian sacks, because they'd all been professionally styled and made up. And they didn't appear nearly as comfortable or self-assured in their new clothes as they had done in their self-styled dowdiness. The sense that utterly cosmetic values of external bling and passing fashion had been shown to triumph over far more abstract principles of service and community was oddly depressing. If only someone really could teach Trinny and Susannah a lesson.
In Oz and James Drink to Britain, the wine buff and the motor bore have been sent off on a tour of Britain, in celebration of home-brewed forms of drinkable anaesthetic. And there's no dutiful hat tip to responsible consumption here, apart from the occasional line about who's going to stay sober to do the driving, which someone from the compliance department presumably insisted they stick in. "The sun is shining and everybody's happy," said Oz at the beginning of last night's episode. "Britain only looks like this when you've been drinking." The comic conceit of the series – as of their previous outings – is that Oz Clarke is a prolix, highfalutin ponce, always wittering on about "hoppy top notes" and "citrus undertones", while James May is a bluff, beery type who doesn't want his pleasure adulterated by anything that even remotely resembles a thought. Lest we lose track of this essential dynamic, both men have been obliged to perform regular little pantomimes of mutual frustration, most of which are very tiresome and take up time that might have been better spent on nice scenery.
Notionally, they're actually staying in the Sprite caravan they tow around behind the vintage Rolls-Royce in which they bowl from brewery to brewery, though it's hard to believe that this detail is any less contrived than the bickering disagreements and "spontaneous" challenges with which the road trip is enhanced. "Why don't we have a beer-making competition?" asked James last night, for all the world as if this idea hadn't been in the shooting script from day one. He then pulled a German home-brewing kit out of the boot of his car and installed it in Oz's caravan bunk to cue up another spurious tiff. They visit some nice-looking pubs and you do learn a little something about brewing techniques, but unless you're of an unusually forgiving nature – or were at least three pints ahead of me by transmission time – you may also have heaved a meaningful sigh when Oz moaned, "How many more weeks have I got of this?"Reuse content