Age Before Beauty episode 1 recap: Robson Green’s dark secret is revealed in the lively new salon saga

Appearances were shown to be deceptive as the drama starring Polly Walker and Robson Green got off to a flying start

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 31/07/2018 - Programme Name: Age Before Beauty - TX: n/a - Episode: Age Before Beauty - EP2 (No. 2) - Picture Shows: **EMBARGOED TILL Tue 31 JULY*** Bel (POLLY WALKER), Wesley (JAMES MURRAY), Leanne (KELLY HARRISON), Teddy (ROBSON GREEN) - (C) Mainstreet Pictures - Photographer: Matt Squire

So the truth about Robson Green is out there. Or rather, the truth about his new character Teddy in Debbie Horsfield’s snappy new drama Age Before Beauty.

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Less cuddly bear, more ruthless manipulator, I’d say.

For in this high stakes, high passion world of Horsfield’s rich imagination, we made the extraordinary discovery that Teddy has been pulling the strings all along. He has always been in love with Bel, the wife of his best mate Wesley. That explains why he is responsible for devastating her marriage with the rather elaborate scheme of setting Wes up with a younger woman, the beautiful young Lorelei (Madeleine Mantock).

It was Teddy who manipulated hard-up Dante to get Wes to do Lorelei’s kitchen and then cajole them into a romance. Yes, it was a far-fetched ruse that would only really exist in the plausibility-stretching world of TV drama. But work it did, adding extra heat and spice to proceedings for next week.

“Timing is everything,” smirked Teddy, who clearly has a few other mischievous ideas up his sleeve.

It was an intriguing start to a new series that packed the screen with a host of strong characters – some a little too strong perhaps (yes, Sue Johnston’s libidinous, Northern Soul jiving granny Ivy-Rae, I’m looking at you). But Horsfield neatly riffed on her central theme: our modern day, social media-fuelled obsession with appearance and staying young.

Of course, Wes’s mistake of falling for a sexy and charming younger woman has existed long before social media. There was an inevitability about the affair, ever since he clapped eyes on Lorelei in the new kitchen Dante had him build. Lorelei made him feel 18 again, he said, with Teddy’s sly cajoling not helping matters.

We also saw Bel find out about the new woman in her husband’s life in the first part of the drama. The episode ended on the cliffhanger news that she was going to set herself up for a taster fitness session with Lorelei – presumably to see what the fuss is all about.

Poldark writer Horsfield has delivered on the promise of exciting and thought-provoking family saga, but if there are criticisms, it’s that there may be too many strong personalities jostling for attention in the overall picture.

There were all those Regan sisters, starting with “Lash Queen” Heidi (Vicky Myers), who is obsessed with having her daughter Disney perform at beauty pageants. There’s “Filler Queen” Leanne, the equally shallow other sibling who is so foul to Bel, so ghastly that it’s hard to credit the idea that she is tolerated so easily within the family.

Their foil is Tina, Lisa Riley’s gothy misery guts who is clearly at odds with the blonde shiny princesses she’s grown up with.

The family matriarch, Sue Johnston’s formidable Ivy-Rae – nicknamed Razors – is another Tungsten-strong personality taking up the screen with her Northern Soul look and brittle attitude to just about everyone – even her wheelchair bound husband Chizzler (Struan Rodger). Razors even has a young “Brazilian-with-biceps” boyfriend called Hector, if you can believe it. I’m not sure I quite can.

But no matter. We also know that Debbie Horsfield is an exceptionally skilled writer, so it would be unwise to judge anyone on appearances in a drama where more secrets are bound to be revealed, and matters explained.

If it does seem a little far-fetched at times, this at least has something important to say. And it’s also enormous fun.

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Age Before Beauty continues on BBC1 on Tuesday nights