Ann Widdecombe to the Rescue (BBC2); Columbus: Man or Myth (five): SOMEONE at The Guardian has got a lot of explaining to do.

Whoever thought it would be a wheeze to hire Ann Widdecombe as an agony aunt obviously had a warped sense of humour. This is the same Ann Widdecombe who earned, and I mean earned, the nickname Doris Karloff while a minister, insisting that prisoners should remain manacled while they were giving birth.

The paper's readers duly wrote in with their problems, and whatever their dilemma, were told they should buck up their ideas, count their blessings and stop whingeing. Sadly, her problem-solving stint proved short-lived, perhaps because there are only so many ways in which you can tell someone to buck up their ideas.

Now some wag at the BBC has decided to repeat the experiment. After 17 years solving the country's problems as an MP, the voiceover told us, Ann is taking her expertise to a more personal level.

First up was Joy, a golf widow. Husband Martin spent three weekends out of four on the golf course, and was angling to play on Christmas Day.

Ann wasn't sympathetic. "I really can't see the problem," she said. Martin went out to work and deserved some time to himself. Joy, who also worked, was unimpressed. Martin was missing out on seeing his children grow up. How could Ann, who has no children of her own, appreciate this, she asked reasonably.

Ann left the house muttering. "Nag, nag, nag," she said. "No wonder he's on the golf course. She will lose him in ten years if she keeps nagging."

She went to the golf course to see Martin, and found him in conciliatory mood. He thought his obsession was going a bit far, even if Ann didn't. He agreed to cut back his golf , and stick to playing around rather than a round on Christmas Day. Problem solved, although Ann's input was hard to spot.

Next up was Neil, owner of a hairdressing salon, whose staff were taking the mickey by smoking where they shouldn't. Neil needed to buck up his ideas, Ann said, and he did and it wasn't really that hard.

It wasn't until last night's final case that Ann's wisdom was put to good use. Ruth and daughter Stephanie spent all their time arguing, and attempts to resolve their differences ended in a shouting match. Ann's intervention worked wonders and mother and daughter kissed and made up. Perhaps there is another career for Doris after all.

As every schoolboy knows, Christopher Columbus may have discovered America for Spain, but he was really an Italian. Or was he? Columbus: Man or Myth? set out to discover the truth about the explorer's origins.

But the truth was peculiarly elusive. Columbus claimed to have been born the son of a weaver in Genoa, but was hazy about the rest of his background, leading to speculation that he was hiding something. The film followed one particular academic who believed Columbus was really a Spaniard after all, or at least from Catalonia.

But despite bringing in a language expert to look at Columbus's writings and a psychological profiler more used to finding serial killers, it added nothing of note to the history books. Even DNA tests on bones thought to be Columbus's proved inconclusive.

The lack of evidence, or indeed of many facts at all, made for repetitive viewing, which also ran to the same footage of a sea battle being used several times. The last word went appropriately to the programme's resident sceptic, who said it wasn't a big deal anyway. "What matters isn't where he comes from but who he was inside," he said.

Published: 29/06/2005