As a concept, 'the Makeover' has always fascinated us. From Plain Jane the Superbrain’s transformation on Neighbours, to a million magazine articles converting the lank and apathetic into bouncy and beautiful, to the recent spate of shows gripping homely, harassed, wonky-boobed members of the public and hoisting them into correctly fitting bras/better relationships/surgically-enhanced thighs.
"In the first episode we saw 21-year-old Princess Tamsin from Huddersfield getting ready to go out, unwinding a piece of insulation tape. At first you thought she was going to tape up her boobs. Then you realised – that was her top."
Snog, Marry, Avoid is part of this Makeover genre, but with a twist. As presenter Jenny Frost tells us, it’s, “the world's first and only makeunder show.”
Don’t get your hopes up. This is not a programme in which beautiful people are forced to live in poverty, eating pasties and developing blackheads and depression, (though presumably only because Channel 4 already have a patent on that one).
No. Snog Marry Avoid has as its target the plastic princesses of Great Britain. You know the ones. The girls who refuse to wear a jacket in January. The ones who can see where Jodie Marsh is coming from. The type who wear so much mascara they have to tip back their heads to open their eyes.
These girls think they are man-magnets. It’s Snog Marry Avoid’s mission to put them right, revealing via vox-popped members of the public that most men, catching a glimpse of a woman sporting seven inch heels, five coats of foundation and a bikini, would start walking briskly in the other direction, whistling nervously. Having been thoroughly disenchanted, the girls are then asked to choose a new style and are transformed instantly, by the power of television (and, presumably, a backstage crew of unsung make up artists, stylists and industrial sandblasters), into natural beauties.
But when it comes to appearance, the truth hurts and sweet, lovely Jenny Frost can’t deliver the insults, because she’s just too nice, isn’t she? So the dirty work is delegated to a computer, POD. Personal Overhaul Device.
This is a mistake. POD might just be the most aggravating simulated character you’ve ever experienced. Worse than Max Headroom. Worse, even, that Mr Chips off Catchphrase. As soon as she starts speaking, you want to beat yourself to death with the remote control.
It’s partly to do with the voice, a cross between Anne Robinson and your GCSE English teacher. It’s partly to do with the way she calls Jenny 'The Frost' for no explicable reason. It’s also because everything that comes out of her electronic mouth is completely banal and cringeable.
Even worse is that Frost, the human aspect, can’t carry off the rest of the show, being something of a charisma-free zone herself. Tasked with a few minutes linking here and there, and a segment after each makeunder in which she revisits the girls to see if they’ve stuck to their natural style, she is hopelessly out of her depth, coming over like that boring person at the party whose stories never have a punch line.
Trinny and Susannah this pair are not. And it’s a shame because the subject matter makes for pretty good entertainment. In the first episode we saw 21-year-old Princess Tamsin from Huddersfield getting ready to go out, unwinding a piece of insulation tape. At first you thought she was going to tape up her boobs. Then you realised – that was her top. Before the transformation, Tamsin looked like a racoon. After it, she was fresh, glowing, and moved to tears to know that she could be attractive without hitting the bathroom seven hours before she was due to go out. Her boyfriend looked pretty relieved, too.
In the last episode amusing drama graduate and corset lover Dominique realised that, sometimes, one layer of mascara is better than 432 while Jules, leading a march for feminism with her dual ambitions to be a pole dancing instructor and an air hostess, went from Barbie look-a-like to classic 40s blonde. Alas, she was soon back to the iron-straight hair and pink clothes, despite the 19 year old being told that the vox-popped public thought she looked 32. “Hello! People who are 32 don't have figures like this!" she said, with the arrogance of youth and lycra. POD should have vaporised her right there.
So, for any gluttons for punishment, tune into tonight (Monday), where, according to the BBC website we will see: “Larna from Newcastle, whose hair is ruined from glueing in too many extensions; peroxide blonde SJ, who loves corsets and all things pink; fake-tan addict Donia, whose tarty look attracts the wrong kind of men; and neon-obsessed Izzy, who believes she is a high maintenance woodland elf.”
I’m sure I saw all of those in the Piccadilly taxi queue on Saturday night…
Snog, Marry, Avoid, 8.30pm, BBC3, Monday