Review

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The Independent Culture
When Reputations (BBC2) chose to have a go at Professor Alfred Kinsey, the godfather of the sexual survey, you would have been counting on some pretty rough treatment. Bold new evidence of serial bigamy, perhaps. A secret penchant for making it with kiwi fruit, or some of the larger pets. Even total abstinence would have been something to sink your teeth into.

No such luck. For all its probing, the most intimate revelation the programme could come up with was that zany fellow students used to call him "non-dating Kinsey". His father was a maniacal methodist, and the dread weight of teenage repression doubtless prompted his son to help foment the culture of sexual openness.

The portrait that emerged was all but indistinguishable from the image we already have of him: "a standard American biologist", as one contributor put it. The only mud that Reputations made stick concerned the suggestion that his pool of interviewees did not constitute an entirely representative sample of American life forms. A case of too many college boys: having devoted 20 years to studying the wasp, it was only natural that he turn his microscope on the WASP.

In order to branch out, the bow-tied professor diligently hung out in gay dives in Chicago, researching what he described in a letter as "H- histories". He then went to New York, which can't have done anything to bolster the myth that Americans only had sex within marriage. It was here that he met up with some of the figures whom we've come to regard as the usual suspects in any study about American transgression. There was Gore Vidal, thanking Kinsey for putting his own particular tastes on the map. William Burroughs recalled his (doubtless fruitful) interrogation being interrupted. "I will not have people's minds undressed in my hotel," said the affronted hotelier, clearly the kind of man whose non-participation in the survey tended to tip its scales in favour of sexual daring.

Kinsey's first and principal finding was that 50 per cent of all male orgasms occurred outside marital intercourse (or "co-itis", as it was pronounced here, making it sound like something catching). As his researches into homosexuality, masturbation and adultery were conducted contemporaneously with Senator McCarthy's investigation into another unAmerican activity, it's no surprise that Kinsey was accused of Communism.

To one modern witness this would have been no insult: she described Kinsey's report as "a sexualised American version of the Commmunist Manifesto". Which is just a gaseous way of saying it was an important document. Like the Manifesto, it was certainly a very boring document: illustrated with endless graphs, statistics and diagrams, it brought a new and wholly uninteresting meaning to doing it on the table.

Making Babies (BBC1) promises to show a lot of women on the table over the next few weeks, as they undergo IVF treatment at Hammersmith Hospital. After one episode, the longueurs of fertilisation treatment have already been meticulously tracked, perhaps too much so. The idea seems to be to make the viewer suffer too. With all the hanging around you have to do, it's fortunate that we're in the likeable company of Tania, a chatty blonde who teeters permanently on the verge of tears. A veteran of three ectopic pregnancies and a miscarriage, she presumably allowed the camera to capture her every indignity because it might trigger a change of luck.

While Tania turns her body into a laboratory, her husband Ray has a series of Smith and Jones-style head-to-head chats with an incredulous mate at work about sperm counts and tetchy wives. These sequences have the simulated flavour of one of those old information films about adult literacy starring a blokeish Bob Hoskins. They're well meant, but ill-judged - not unlike a lot of courses in IVF.

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