Last Night's TV - Undercover Boss, Channel 4; Restoration Home, BBC2; Should I Test My Genes? The Price of Life, BBC2

Rude awakening for women on top

I imagine quite a few people feel a bit shy at the idea of entering an Ann Summers sex shop but it was a bit surprising to find Vanessa Gold among them, a deputy managing director for the chain who went back to the shopfloor in the first of a new series of
Undercover Boss. Strictly speaking, it should have been her sister Jacqueline, who's actually the true boss of Britain's best-known dildo merchants, but her public profile made an incognito appearance impossible so, on a drizzly day in Blackburn, it was Vanessa who stood on the threshold looking as if she was about to be sick. The cover story for the regular staff was that Vanessa (alias "Julia") was the subject of a documentary about a woman going back to work after a career break, an explanation that offered roughly the same degree of coverage as an Ann Summers Ahoy Boys Sexy Sailor costume. But nonetheless everyone gamely pretended that Vanessa was exactly who she said she was.

If she was bashful about some of the products she was selling she quickly discovered that her customers weren't. "I'm after a decent Rabbit that's not too big and has a G-spot stimulator," explained a sturdy-looking women. "Have you got any?" Vanessa blushed and went to hide behind the counter, but then they got news that Jacqueline was coming on a flying visit and she was dispatched to tidy up the tubes of Cock Rub. "She's got a big nose, hasn't she?" one of the shop staff whispered to her as the CEO walked away, suggesting that whatever they thought was going on they hadn't yet rumbled that they were being filmed for Undercover Boss. After a raucous night at an Ann Summers party, Vanessa went to shadow a successful manager who'd turned round an Exeter store. There, a teenage customer guilelessly shared her enthusiasm for the only form of sexual restraint that was on offer in the programme: "I'm obsessed with bondage," she said. "I love my ball gags."

I'm not sure that Vanessa learnt anything that she wouldn't have done with an ordinary store visit, but for the less than startling lesson Undercover Boss always supplies, which is that minor employees are actually human. The bullet-line findings for Jacqueline were that the stores were getting a little shabby and a little vanilla, the sense of naughtiness Ann Summers once supplied having been dissipated by its high-street presence. Oh, and that keeping most of your staff on part-time contracts because it keeps labour costs low is a good way to demoralise your most talented employees. The programme ended, as usual, with that faintly nauseating section in which gulled workers are invited to head office, spend a couple of terrifying hours convinced they're about to be sacked, and then weep with relief and gratitude when they're given some treats instead for helping to buff up the company's image. Aux armes, citoyens.

In Restoration Home, BBC2 has taken a neglected property that might otherwise fall into dereliction and converted it for a new use. To be specific, it has taken The Restoration Man, an almost identical blend of architectural history and building makeover that Channel 4 ran last year, and modestly rejigged it so that Caroline Quentin can move in instead. Quentin actually has some real experience to bring to bear here, being something of a serial fixer-upper herself. But not much of it was deployed in this first episode, in which a young couple set about converting a Somerset church into a home. Quentin turned up to yodel cheerily at the converters from time to time, and channelled Kevin McCloud's speech rhythms to inject some spurious tension ("If Paul and Laura don't succeed we may lose another of our precious buildings for ever"). Apart from that it was left mostly to an owlish architecture enthusiast and an over-excitable archivist, who dug up historical facts about the money-pit in question.

Greatest pleasure here was Paul, a resiliently cheerful type who appeared to have taught himself every skill necessary to convert a Grade II-listed church (barring stained-glass restoration) and who blithely brushed aside anxieties about flooding (the 1968 high-water mark plaque being fixed worryingly high on one of his interior walls) and his partner's tendency to turn up just as the concrete or the glue had set and point out the flaw he'd missed. Paul's optimism and good humour richly deserved success, and, one hopes, a sustained period without unusually heavy rainfall.

Adam Wishart has made excellent programmes that patrol the shifting border between medical advances and ethical norms, but Should I Test My Genes? The Price of Life turned out to be a little disappointing. This was partly because its subject matter – the application of our increasing knowledge of the genetic code – was recently covered in BBC3's So What If My Baby Is Born Like Me? But also because Wishart seemed to have succumbed to a mild case of Documentarist's Solipsism here, that first-person style that invariably seems to hint that the subject is important mostly because it's happening to the director. Fair enough, I suppose, given that his own family history of cancer was the starting point for his investigations of genetic screening, but the shots of him looking pensive in the rain were still a misjudgement. Did he shout "Action" first and then adopt the glum expression, I kept wondering. And how did his face change when he thought he'd got enough existential dilemma in the can?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape