The Portillo guide to restoration

the week on television
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The Independent Online
Love Me Do (ITV, Sat) finds The Shane Ritchie Experience masquerading under a pseudonym. Most people's experience of The Shane Ritchie Experience was fairly undiluted revulsion, but somehow the cockney sparra' lives to fight another day. The entertainment has now been toned down. This means it is merely mildly appalling, as opposed to dangerously so. It's still a game show in which betrothed couples compete to get to the altar, but this time the hoops through which they have to throw themselves dole out humiliation in more manageable portions.

Each couple is asked about each other, and they only score points if their answers tally. Among this week's contestants were Colin, a bald firefighter, whose best mate is called Colin, and his Spanish bride-to- be Anxone. Shane, whose mind is not as broad as his suits, gave us his dazzling array of jokes stereotyping the Spanish. Anxone, impressively refraining from acting out that stereotype, missed the chance to clack his cojones in a couple of castanets. Then there was Clare and Rob, a ruthlessly shallow couple from Nuneaton. (Shane does a very handy Nuneaton accent too). You knew they were going to win because, deploying a gameshow savvy borne of thousands of hours on the sofa, they skilfully trained all their answers on the lowest common denominator. "What first attracted Rob to Clare?" asked Shane. "Bum," said Rob. "Bum," agreed Clare. On such fundamental things are marriages based. Then there was Darren, betrothed by what you can only assume was predestination, to the lovely Karen. Eliminated early on, they could justifiably claim to be the victims of discrimination, because Shane didn't take the piss out of their estuarine accents (being exactly the same as his own).

You can see this game catching on at house parties in Gloucestershire. Camilla (C5, Sun), what first attracted you to Charles? "His title," says Camilla. "My intellect," disagrees Charles. When was your first kiss? "On his honeymoon," says Camilla. "After her husband's stag night," says Charles. Charles, what bad babit of yours does Camilla find most exasperating? "Talking out of the side of my mouth," says Charles. "His tendency to cancel our romantic holidays at the last minute because of press furore over Channel 5 documentaries that no one watched anyway because they can't receive the signal," says Camilla.

Camilla was an unexpected treat. There were approximately six shakycam minutes of the reclusive adulteress on film, but much fun to be had meeting all her pals. The chief secretary of the Parker-Bowles fan club is a redoubtable cove called Charles Benson, whose proud bulldog head sits on a neck roughly the diameter of one of the Queen's greedier corgis. He was keen to establish that just because the Prince of Wales's ex-wife is extraordinarily beautiful, we shouldn't overlook the charms of the woman who may be his future wife. "I have always found her extremely attractive," he said. "And she's also very sexy." So that's all right then.

To be fair, the documentary's script tended to agree with him. "In the hot summers of the early 1970s," it explained, "Smith's Lawn began to sizzle with sexual tension." (What, incidentally, did that illustrious sward do to earn such a humdrum name?) Most of the sizzling took place between Camilla, by this time married, and Charles. At one dance they were seen kissing openly. The programme failed in its journalistic duty to ask witnesses what kind of kissing it was. Are we talking discreet pecks, or your basic sarnie? It would also be quite nice to find out precisely why Andrew Parker Bowles "with customary good grace continued to make Charles welcome". There must be some reason other than "good grace" which allowed him to tolerate his own cuckoldry.

Michael Portillo, who recently underwent a humiliation every bit as bad as anything on The Shane Ritchie Experience, returned to the public eye with One Foot in the Past (BBC2, Wed). Notionally a ramble round a pile in Bucks, it was really a guided tour round the guide. Portillo couched his admiration for the owner in terms that afforded an unrivalled vista on his own unaccomplished ambitions. Having restored the house from ruin, it was now a monument to the owner's time on earth. "Imagine being able to claim this much," fantasised the former Defence Secretary. He was particularly impressed with the staircase. "Look at that staircase?" he marvelled. "There is nothing supporting it at all." It takes one to know one.

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