Daytime TV: Putting on the Ritz

Gary Day admires Joan Collins' chutzpah as she encourages three generations of women to glam up

October 15, 2009

What? A review of Joan Does Glamour (ITV, Tuesday 13 October, 9pm) in Times Higher Education? What is the world coming to? Surely there are more important things to write about than a septuagenarian passing on her make-up tips? Perhaps. But as Henry Fielding observed, we learn more about mankind from their choice of amusements than from their more serious pursuits.

Let's face it. You can spend a lifetime studying philosophy and have nothing to show for it, but take a trip to Topshop with Joan Collins and you will feel like a new woman - providing you are a woman, that is. If you are a man and Joan is about, well, watch out. She's had five husbands already and shows no sign of flagging.

Joan is not renowned for her sociological observations, but this is ITV. She's a star and views us from on high, seeing things we can't. Nor does she age. Joan probably showed Helen of Troy how to do her hair. Anyone who has been around that long must have something worth saying.

And here it is: British women have let themselves go. The worst example is the "muffin top" that shows their "jelly belly". And, asks Joan, do you know why they droop and flop? Because they spend too much time on the internet, or texting, or watching television. Let us hope that they were indeed watching their plasma screens or they would have missed Joan's diagnosis of what's wrong with them.

Joan is nothing if not philanthropic. There aren't many movie stars prepared to give up their time to teach grown women to dress themselves - particularly one whose cinematic career consisted of stepping out of, rather than into, her clothes. Sadly, all good things come to an end and Joan now devotes herself to charitable work. And so an advert went out to all the world (well, all right, Britain), offering help in being glamorous.

One Plymouth family replied. It may have been more; we shall never know. Eileen, mum Mary and daughter Holli wanted to look their best for Holli's 16th birthday bash. They tried to guess who was coming, as they hadn't been told. Cheryl Cole? Sharon Osbourne? Joanna Lumley? "Brad Pitt?" wondered Mary wistfully. They stared down the empty road as clouds that may have been the stuffing for Eighties shoulder pads rolled ominously towards them.

A silver car slid out from under a swollen sky. The door opened and a vision shimmered into view. Joan was wearing shades, presumably because she expected a shaft of light to fall upon her from heaven. It didn't. "Do you recognise me?" she asked. There was a pause. For a moment, you felt for her. But they did. What a relief.

"I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be sitting at the kitchen table having a cup of coffee with Joan Collins," said Eileen. Joan stared at her arms. "They're flabby. You need to cover them," she advised. Joan accompanied the family on a trip to the supermarket. Shoppers fumbled for their mobiles. Mary picked some bananas. Sixty-eight pence. "Each?" queried Joan. The women snorted. "You don't do much shopping, do you?" they laughed.

Afterwards it was off to Primark. Joan gave the women one minute to choose an item of clothing. Eileen selected a brown top. "I wouldn't dust my silver with that," snapped the star of The Bitch (1979). Having proved to the family that they shouldn't be allowed to buy clothes without supervision, Joan took it upon herself to decide what each should wear. "She seems more interested in choosing something for herself," grumbled Eileen.

Joan interrogated Mary about why she didn't spend more time on her appearance. Too busy being a wife and a mother. And then there were the dogs to look after. What, no internet or texting? Mary had a low point. "She's not in my real world," she complained, looking at the hat Joan had bought for her. "I look like a bloody farmer in this."

Things had changed since Joan was last in Blighty. A woman showed her the tattoos of flowers on her shoulder. Each one, she explained, "indicates someone important in my life. I want to keep adding to them until they reach all the way to my groin." This was one of several encounters that should have convinced Joan that her concept of glamour had faded. A shame, when you saw just how radiant Eileen, Mary and Holli were on the big day. "Did I do it?" Joan asked the guests. Yes, you did. Say what you like, she is a trouper.

But this was just another programme designed to make people feel dissatisfied with themselves, to call in a consultant, to set targets and to meet a deadline. Entertainment is ideology.

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