Miranda Sawyer - Go-go girls

Television - A religious make-over leaves us craving a little lesbian action, writes Miranda Sawyer

Michaela Newton-Wright is nice enough: a plain girl in a crap job. What Michaela does is this: she sits for hours in front of a computer screen, meets clients around a shiny boardroom table, then goes to terrible bars with dull workmates and calls it a social life. She does this for more than 40 hours a week. If she worked like this for public money, we'd call her a drone. As she performs her mechanical tasks for an ad agency, she's a 29-year-old go-getter.

But there is hope! Michaela has finally understood that there could be more to life than commuting and computing. Michaela is having a religious awakening. And she has realised that television can help. Hallelujah! Yes, if you turn to television, you, too, can experience a quick-fix buffing of the spirit, the holy chance to shake up your life by doing what you're told and then moaning about it on home video. It doesn't mat-ter if you're trying to change your circumstances by finding a new partner (Would Like to Meet), a new you (What Not to Wear) or a new religion (Spirituality Shopper). It's all just Trinny and Susannah for the soul.

Spirituality Shopper (Mondays, 8pm) is a programme that aims to chuck its harassed, flailing subjects into a variety of religious practices, in the hope that one or two will stick. Presented by Jonathan Edwards, the Christian long-jumper and a thoroughly nice man, this show follows all the TV make-over rules: the round-up of the subject's life, the interviews with concerned friends, then the experts who trot in to make the subject throw away much-loved props and try out some new stuff. Subject gets teary - usually "I feel ugly and useless and this isn't working" - then buckles down and sees the light. Friends are delighted. Fin.

Michaela wasn't the best person to start the series, being simultaneously far too self-conscious and not self-aware enough to offer any insights other than "I feel apprehensive". This after she had been asked to meditate for 20 minutes a day: hardly the toughest of tasks. Still, she had a bash at Sufi dancing (she span slowly and stiffly, like a clockwork ballerina whose turning rod was giving her gyp), at giving up her hair straighteners for Lent and, hilariously, at contributing to her community. She was terrible at that one, being unable to talk to anyone who didn't know the location of the nearest All Bar One.

But the best moment was when she had a Shabbat Friday meal for her friends from the ad agency, where they were encouraged to talk about spirituality. The greatest insight was from a chap who recounted the time his grandfather had told him that you can count your real friends on one hand. "That really made me think," said this supposedly high-flying twentysomething, as though God had just walked into the room, dropped his trousers and waggled his essential being at the assembled company. With friends like that, you need the devil in your life.

For Spirituality Shopper to succeed, it needs people in the grip of genuine religious crisis, people who have looked inside and found themselves wanting, rather than blithering idiots too lazy to consider reading a book, contemplating some art, walking in the park or listening to music. Most of Michaela's problems would have been solved by her buying some half-decent CDs and allowing herself to dance to them and listen to the lyrics. She'd have got as much out of the latest Coldplay album as she did from Edwards and his well-meaning canapes for the spirit. But she was too clueless to try even that.

After such depressing fare, Sugar Rush (Tuesdays, 10.50pm) was a welcome and blessed relief. Adapted from Julie Burchill's teenage lesbian novel, this drama does just what it says on the tin. A sticky, shiny, kiss-me-quick romp, all bright and glistening, Sugar Rush is a hoot from start to finish. Not since the Carry On movies have so many rubbish puns been shoehorned into one script. Jokes abound about going blind, being well hung, and toad-in-the-hole.

Burchill is desperate for the Daily Mail to hate this drama (which would be the ultimate accolade), but even if it doesn't, Sugar Rush can't fail. Though the peripheral characters are inconsistent cartoons, the two central parts of Kim and Sugar are beautifully acted by Olivia Hallinan and Lenora Critchlow, both relative unknowns, and the whole programme is a delight. With its fast, funny direction, positive camera-work, and daft and witty script, Sugar Rush is a tonic - yet more proof that modern British drama is confident enough to take on anything coming from over the Atlantic. Shame it's on too late for anyone under 15.

Andrew Billen is away

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