In Animal ER, however, humans and human sentiments are pushed into the background. The action never pauses for the viewer to admire the cute puppies or to sympathise with the anxious owners. Instead, what we get is a parade of distended abdomens, shattered bones, bloody eye-sockets, and yard-on-yard of pink intestine pushing and twisting out of a horse's belly. A pregnant cat faced a Caesarean: "Pussyfoot's womb contains no kittens," intoned the commentary: "Just one-and-a-half litres of pus." A horse that is winched by its legs on to the operating table has the strained muscles of an anatomical diagram. This is life reduced to sheer matter, chaotic, fragile and stranded.
Publicity for the series has concentrated on its gruesomeness. In fact, it is not particularly gory, but it is ruthless. When sentiment is admitted, it is hustled in so abruptly it makes you wince. Last night, in the middle of an operation to remove a calf's eyeball, the beast stopped breathing, and the camera swivelled to its owner, a small girl named Laura, with a matter-of-fact alacrity that produced not pity but a sense of terrified incredulity - they can't show a child watching her pet die, can they? Actually, I think they probably could, but, in this case, the animal pulled through. Laura had already said she wanted to be a vet. Keith, the vet, asked her if she was still interested. "Yes," she said. "You're a mug," said Keith bitterly.
Vets cannot afford softer feelings. One of the most noticeable differences between this and the real ER is that on ER they never volunteer to kill patients if treatment is too expensive - and a willingness to reflect that is partly what makes Animal ER so fascinating. It is by no means great art, but it has something of the callousness, the refusal to compromise with a happy ending, that marks out such works.
Forgotten (ITV) is an efficient thriller that casts Amanda Burton as a mysterious stranger, Rachel Monroe, who turns up in a perfect Cotswold village right about the time that a small girl is strangled and thrown into the local reservoir. It turns out that Monroe's own daughter met the same fate some years before; and she thinks that devoted family man Paul McGann is the killer. The manipulation of sentiment is heavy-handed, but Caleb Ranson's script has a grim earnestness that serves it well. He seems to have something to say about the delicacy of happiness, the appalling things that lurk underneath prettiness. Or, to put it another way: no kittens here, just pus.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
- 2 The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 3 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
- 4 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star, dies aged 45
- 5 Businessman charged £75 for three small bottles of water in London hotel
Secret Cinema: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Top Gear Burma episode breached Ofcom rules over Jeremy Clarkson's racial slur
Game of Thrones season 4 blooper reel unveiled at Comic-Con 2014
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 teaser trailer sees Katniss lead rebellion against the Capitol
The Simpsons Family Guy trailer: First look at crossover episode after Comic-Con debut
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace