Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen: Cracking China, BBC2 - TV review: The Charles I-lookalike has lost none of his cavalier spirit

People with a healthy sense of self-mockery are always a joy to watch

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The Independent Culture

I have many happy memories of watching Changing Rooms' Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen cheerfully wreck people's homes, while cleverly disguised as an interior-design professional, so it was nice to see him back in action in the one-off BBC2 documentary, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen: Cracking China.

It was also cheering to note that though a decade has passed, that famously flamboyant dress sense has not sobered with age. As the Charles I-lookalike himself put it, "Let's charge the Roundheads wearing a lot of silk. Who cares if they've got cannons?"

Llewelyn-Bowen may be permanently associated with the period in the minds of the British public, but he has an inkling his time has only just arrived. The rapidly expanding, home-owning middle classes in China and Mexico offer a perfect opportunity to expand his homeware business, House of Laurence, from its modest base in Cirencester out into the world. That's the way this documentary presented the situation, anyway. A less charitable interpretation might be that after one too many MDF-related debacles, he had to travel several thousand miles, across continents, to find anyone who'd trust him let loose in their living room.

In any case, everyone agreed that the stakes were high: "It is tipping point," said LLB. "Either the design thing really establishes itself properly or I'm going to have to do Strictly." And despite the sometimes tense atmosphere, he hadn't lost his sense of fun. After much discussion of the importance of first impressions in Chinese business culture, he decided to present his Shanghai distributor with a signed, framed photograph of himself. In Mexico he turned up to a meeting with samples of his product slung over his shoulder in a bin liner. "They'll just think I'm a really chic Santa," he said, when his local fixer voiced an objection. All this was interspersed with shots of LLB raising a conspiratorial eyebrow to the camera, like a villain from a Restoration comedy.

Good for him. People with a healthy sense of self-mockery are always a joy to watch – this would have made an interesting double bill with Dave's David Hasselhoff mockumentary, Hoff the Record. Moreover, House of Laurence's gaudy take on British heritage design does seem to have found an appreciative international market. You pity the poor foreigners who'll have to live with the stuff, of course, but if it means more OTT LLB on the TV, this can only be good for Britain.