Age Before Beauty, episode 3 review: clichéd sex scenes, clunking dialogue – and bafflingly bad all round
With its “Mirror mirror on the wall” soft focus introduction, Age Before Beauty (BBC One) has some of the worst opening titles in TV memory. And once they’re over, things go even further downhill.
Poldark writer Debbie Horsfield’s bafflingly bad six-parter reached its midway point with another sub-soap instalment of unconvincing characters, contrived plotting and execrable dialogue.
The way the Regan sisters are engaged in a teeth-bared, talons-out power struggle over the family business, you’d think it was a megabucks multinational corporation rather than a backstreet Manchester beauty parlour.
Heroine Bel (Polly Walker) enlisted the help of her dysfunctional parents over her marital problems with handyman husband Wes (James Murray). Queen-of-mean mother Ivy-Rae (Sue Johnston) encouraged her to wreak revenge but father Chizzler (Struan Rodger) counselled caution, before revealing the reason why he’s in a wheelchair: Ivy-Rae pushed him from a window when she discovered their swinging hobby had swung a tad too far. Another dose of gritty realism, there.
In an unsisterly spirit of oneupmanship, Bel’s bitchy sibling Leanne (Kelly Harrison, whose tacky character feels like she’s on secondment from Footballers’ Wives) splashed out on a billboard poster to promote the salon – except she vastly overpaid for it and was distraught when lapdog husband Teddy (Robson Green) publicly sided with Bel.
Some tedious farce with stolen vans and spray paint (a plot device which was lazily repeated twice within an hour) eventually saw a family argument erupt and various long-buried secrets bubble to the surface. Unfortunately, by this point, I was too busy cringing to care.
The script had all the subtlety of shirtless Aidan Turner wielding a scythe. Millennials were characterised by men asking “Do you moisturise?”, friends earnestly discussing “grime artists” and Banksy, clubbers doing shots and slo-mo air-punching on the dancefloor, then drinking “kale and beetroot spritzers” to detox the morning after. All that was missing was some smashed avocado on sourdough toast.
Wes’s young lover Lorelei (Madeleine Mantock) – a personal trainer who blithely witters on to customers about how she’s sleeping with a married man – finally twigged that her mysterious client “Sheila” was actually Bel “disguised” with a pair of specs.
This episode also took in some clichéd kitchen sex, a clunky sub-plot about men’s Y-fronts and Bel ripping up her love rival’s dress in a scene straight out of the Eighties.