Would Like To Meet (BBC2)

When I'm Sixty-Four (BBC2)

EVERYONE seemed keen to tell Esther Rantzen where she was going wrong in her relationships with men.

"A lot of displacement activity and evaluation gestures," declared body language expert Tracey Cox. "You can be a scary woman sometimes," said confidence coach Jeremy Milnes. Even Rantzen joined in, calling herself "formidable, aggressive and hostile".

It took her 92-year-old mother to bring her back to reality. "You're too old for sex," she told her daughter, who'd volunteered to be a celebrity guinea pig on dating show Would Like To Meet.

The result was a bit like a TV edition of In The Psychiatrist's Chair as the public persona of Rantzen was dissected on camera. It was brave of her to do it - and I don't just mean being filmed without her make-up - although some will just call her a self-publicist.

The programme did highlight the problems facing a relatively newly-widowed woman of 63. Her husband Desmond Wilcox died in 1999. "I can't replace Desmond and won't try to, ever," she stated at the start. But she did think it time she tried making new male friendships.

The format dictated that not only her attitude but her looks and wardrobe were given a thorough overhaul by the experts. Out went the Mrs Thatcher power suits and helmet hair bouffant.

More problematic was getting Rantzen to stop behaving like a TV interviewer off-camera and becoming "cheeky, sexy and flirty".

Despite her success on screen over the past 30 years, she has low esteem. She even remembers the TV column that began with the words "Hideous Esther Rantzen". All the criticism has clearly hurt.

Only her husband made her feel attractive. She continually put herself down. The experts tried to make her look in the mirror and see the woman that Wilcox saw.

She admitted that "this is stuff I've never looked at before". Gamely, she took the advice offered. The softer look led to people saying she looked 20 years younger and she clearly enjoyed flirting as instructed while admitting to be "not quite ready for love but ripe for fun".

What could have been a celebrity-obsessed gimmick proved enlightening and moving. It also provided Rantzen with an hour-long tape advertising for a date.

The celebrity Would Like To Meet was shown as part of the BBC's Time Of Your Life season, which highlights aspects of later life. When I'm Sixty-Four was a Tony Grounds-scripted drama about the unlikely friendship between a cabby getting too old to be a football lout - or geriatric hooligan, as he put it - and a retired schoolmaster determined to see the world.

"I just want to live a bit before I die," declared Beaky.

"You do come out with some flowery old bollocks," commented Ray.

As you'd expect, Paul Freeman and Alun Armstrong were pretty good as the old guys. The ending, as the pair walked off into the sunset together, meant they had no need of the Would Like To Meet experts.