Blaaaaaahdy kids!

Pete McCarthy (above) fancies himself as a bit of a childsnatcher. Adrian Turpin checks out his Fagin credentials
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The Independent Culture
Which of these men would you choose to babysit for you? Answers on a postcard to the NSPCC. Professor Desmond is a children's entertainer. He says: "If it's a really bad child, I mean really bad, you have got to sort them out. I might just pull their hair gently, and after that point they don't usually play me up." Daniel Parkes is a school teacher. He says: After a few lessons I remember thinking: "I'm going to be sterilised. I can't stand children." Pete McCarthy is a stand-up comic turned TV cultural commentator. He says: "Kids, eh, why can't they just shut up and behave... Now they're saying you're not allowed to hit them - not even babies, who can be really naughty." Childcare has seen little like it since Medea joined the Pre-School Playgroups Association.

Before you lock up your sons and daughters, it's only fair to say that one of the above is not being quite straight. The two who work regularly with children, you'll be relieved to know, are deadly serious. McCarthy, by contrast, is spinning a line in the first of three half-hour polemics for Without Walls. "Bloody Students" and "Bloody Old People" get the McCarthy treatment in the coming weeks, but the first subjects for this Swiftian triptych are "Bloody Kids". What, he demands, can we do about the little bastards? Answer: "Well, obviously, as parents we can impress on children that they are a problem, and drop hints that we wish they'd never been born. Or collectively, as a society, we can marginalise them, much as we do with foreign people and the disabled".

According to Channel 4 insiders, McCarthy is to have his tongue surgically removed from his cheek before the next series of Travelog. Push him, and he'll even own up to being a father of two. "The truth is I wanted to do something positive and pro-child, but in an edgy, subversive way. I travel a lot, and wherever you go - Africa, the Mediterranean - children are integrated into the mainstream. In Britain, though, they're seen as a problem that interferes with adult stuff."

In other words, he blames the parents. The real problem with children is the modern childhood adults have created for them: a "chicken nuggetland theme park" where even Barbie has her own "McDonald's environment" and "no self-respecting child would climb a tree unless they'd paid Nintendo £55 for the privilege". Unable to accommodate young people, adult society has handed over its responsibilities to multinational corporations. The result is a generation that can't help but be dysfunctional.

Interviewees fill in the gaps in the rhetoric, and allowed to speak without fear of contradiction, they provide many of the film's choicest moments. While Professor Desmond tells how he always covers his "lower regions" since "the injury", others, like Chris Spain of the British Association of Non-Parents, plumb the lower depths of adult self-righteousness and self-pity. "We have a grandmother's day and a mother's day," he says. "Let's have a day when all the people who haven't got children send cards to each other and celebrate that." With that calibre of unwitting humour, and a script packed with one-liners, "Bloody Kids" is a romp. Sometimes it verges on the convoluted, but it is never predictable. It bodes well for the other two parts of the series.

Just one major quibble: after its opening minutes, the film never quite lives up to the bilious potential of its title. Would Jonathan Swift have sat in a playpen full of plastic balls being pelted by moppets? I think not. McCarthy dons Fagin's great-coat and the kind of pork pie hat that should have the word "childsnatcher" embossed on it, but the man's more infant-friendly than a bottle of Johnson's baby lotion. Next time, what about a well-argued rant by a genuine child-hater? But then, you'd never get that on Channel 4. Bloody liberals.

`McCarthyism: The Bloody Trilogy' begins with `Bloody Kids', Tuesday, 9.30pm Channel 4