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The Independent Culture
Ruby's Health Quest (BBC1) ended in the Arizona desert, among the irrigated splendours of a leading addiction clinic. As the latest arrivals reeled off their disastrous curricula vitae with polished ease ("Hi, I'm Gary, recovering compulsive eater and incest survivor"), Ruby fretted over the fact that she didn't know what she was addicted to. She soon found out. She's addicted to wisecracks, and the course leader put her straight into cold turkey. "Please... do the best you can to refrain from being funny," he said sternly, after Ruby had returned some back- of-the-class flippancy to his soothing therapeutic interrogations. She wasn't allowed asides to the camera crew either, which probably constitutes an offence under the Geneva Convention.

As it happens, Ruby had already confessed to her dysfunction, in a documentary about Californian alternative therapies broadcast a couple of years ago. After a selection box of zany cures, all given a thorough Waxing, she spent the night with some giant redwoods, emerging next morning bite-speckled and uncharacteristically subdued. I remember thinking at the time that a permanent cure would be a career disaster, which may explain why she kept herself in check here, taking part in the activities but not exactly committing herself to getting in touch with the inner child. She was pretty well-behaved about jokes too, which was a mixed blessing for the audience, though there was a certain pleasure in watching her queasy self-restraint. When the group were taking it in turns to tell a distressed member how "beautiful" she was, how much they all loved and admired her, the camera sneaked a look at Ruby - a brassy Cordelia waiting uneasily to heave her heart into her mouth. Later, the therapist introduced his charges to a morning of "equine therapy". "Tell the horse how you're feeling," he advised solemnly. Ruby valiantly bit back a zinger, lips puckering strangely under the pressure.

She ended with chastened sobriety, pointing out that these damaged people were no laughing matter, but the thought occurred that she shouldn't have been so apologetic. Perhaps she could open up her own top-dollar trauma spa, one dedicated to the principle that the patients should all take themselves a little less seriously.

The therapy involved in QED: A Hole in Fred's Head (BBC1) was more robustly mechanical - no pony-hugging, just a skull clamp like a medieval torture instrument, a hand-drill and an electrode through the brain. Fred Amphlett suffers from Parkinson's, though the strange paradox of the illness is that he suffered almost as much from its cure: drugs that release the frozen cramp of the disease, but then send the muscles into wild, looping spasms. The solution sounds crude - the cauterisation of a tiny area of brain, frighteningly close to important areas controlling vision and movement. Because of that, the patient has to stay awake to help guide the probe into precisely the right position. The fact that patients are prepared to undergo this alarming procedure offers some evidence of how miserable it is to live with the alternative. It appeared to work anyway - Fred rolled off the operating table as if it were a sun-lounger, and strolled back to his hospital bed as if he'd just had his fingernails trimmed. It wasn't quite as miraculous as it looked - he still has bad days - but it was an immeasurable improvement over what he'd endured before.

Lisa Clayton Alone Around the World (BBC2) offered a muted account of the yachtswoman's solo circumnavigation. She took 285 days to travel 31,000 miles - a startling adventure which included the boat rolling through 360 degrees and Clayton herself being washed overboard in the Southern seas. Unfortunately, this record of her extraordinary voyage made it look about as exciting as taking a rowing boat out on the Serpentine and losing an oar halfway through.

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