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?

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
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.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015