Margery And Gladys (ITV1): Tony Robinson's Romans (C4): FIRST, Rosemary And Thyme. Now, Margery And Gladys.

Do I detect a trend here - one for taking two senior actresses and pairing them up as TV odd couples? You can just hear producers thinking: "That should stop them moaning that there are no decent parts for women once they reach a certain age." What a pity that, in both cases, someone didn't provide them with scripts as exciting as reading a pension book.

While Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris play detective as Rosemary and Thyme, Penelope Keith and June Brown broke the law as Margery and Gladys. The limited imagination of casting directors dictated that Keith played posh and Brown played common. The former was a posh widow, the latter her cleaning lady.

"My cleaner is due any minute, I must clean up before she comes," said snooty Margery, before bashing a young intruder over the head with a vase (Waterford crystal, of course). For reasons best known to the writers, she and Gladys did a runner, worried that she'd end up inside for defending her property. And yes, they did quote the case of Tony Martin, a rare and ill-judged example of real life intruding on the ludicrous plot.

Just as in The Importance Of Being Earnest, a handbag was a central prop. Margery left hers behind in the rush to flee the scene of the crime and so didn't have any money, leaving her and Gladys (driving a battered car, just as Rosemary and Thyme have a battered Land Rover) to resort to petty crime. They broke into a chemist's shop, left a hotel without paying and robbed a post office at not gun but syringe point.

All the time Margery's nose remains snootily in the air. "I'd rather you didn't call me Marge, I am not something you spread on bread," she told Gladys and, of course, being a lady she didn't talk of sex but people "having Humpty Dumpty", which lent a whole new meaning to the nursery rhyme.

There was some other stuff about the local Neighbourhood Watch which belonged in a bad sit-com, and an equally bizarre sub-plot involving the penchant of Margery's son for sleeping with women wearing household rubber gloves.

This was the legacy of a childhood incident in which he found his father in bed with the cleaning lady. Julius Caesar was similarly affected by an incident in his younger days. Tony Robinson's Romans recounted how, before he came and saw and conquered as a Roman leader, 25-year-old Julius Caesar was on a ship boarded by pirates.

They demanded a ransom of 20 talents of silver for him. He was offended, believing he was worth more. He instructed them to ask for 50. While captive, he took the opportunity to practise public speaking - I came, I saw, I was kidnapped - on the pirates. Letting him go once the ransom was paid proved a fatal error. He hired a squad to hunt down the pirates, reclaim the ransom and bring them back to him.

He duly took the law into his own hands and had every single one of them crucified. Not that he wasn't a merciful man - he had their throats cut first.

Published: 22/09/2003