Television Review

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The Independent Culture
MYTHS WERE the theme of an educative Modern Times (BBC2) last night as "Pink Parents" filmed gay parenting from a variety of perspectives. On the whole it followed a well-worn path, the only difference being the people who were treading it. A lesbian couple slipped off into a room to conceive, albeit in a clinic with a syringe, while Chris, a gay man, met the prospective lesbian parents of his future child at a party.

The film's strengths were mainly issue-led. Such as why a single gay man would want to have a child in the first place, and a man-child at that. "People have weird ideas about gay men," Chris volunteered with growing disgust. "Why does he want a boy? Is it so, when he grows up, he can, like, have sex with him?" This was an important point to make. Notwithstanding the fact that gay men are less likely to abuse children than heterosexuals of either sex, the familiar reason Chris wants kids is completeness, having grown up in a foster home without a father.

The next myth to be batted aside was the one about gay and lesbian parents having expectations of their child's sexuality. If that was Buzz and Brenda's hope (and it certainly didn't seem to be), one felt that they'd be disappointed. The couple had a little girl already and seemed fabulously well-adjusted parents, likely to raise normal, well-adjusted children - ones who, when teenagers, would reject everything their parents stand for. Brainwashing wasn't the issue, it was sexuality. "I'm not sure anyone would particularly want their children to be gay or lesbian either," Brenda remarked pointedly. "In our society, it's not an easy option."

An intrusive, rather flip narration was the one weak point. "They let me film them in bed because I wanted to know exactly what lesbians do to become pregnant. It seemed to be something to do with taking your temperature. It certainly wasn't anything to do with making love." However, there were some beautifully photographed shots of sperm - a night sky of shooting stars. The programme also lacked some of producer Stephen Lambert's stylistic tics which overran earlier Modern Times films: this was understated. Modern, in every sense.

On reflection, the parting shot was also dubious. Mummy Buzz and Mummy Brenda discovered after a scan that they were to have a boy. The film left them there, implying, somehow, that maleness within their own unusual family unit might be an issue. And so it might, but raising children, friends tell me, is all about issues.

A howling pun announced the latest assignment in Back to the Floor (BBC2). In "Top Dog", Peter Davies, an ex-Army major-general and now director general of the RSPCA, spent four days in Leeds as an inspector for the charity. One attribute essential in such people is, of course, the ability to upset children, and Davies seemed particularly gifted in this area. He showed no mercy as mangy pets were dragged from wailing infants whose parents had let the animal kingdom down. He stepped with aplomb over catless infants lying prone in the street and strode from snivelling adolescents, without looking back, leading a skinny-ribbed mutt in the direction of a square meal and a full can of flea spray.

The film also allowed us to find out what happened to Wayne and Waynetta Slob. Evidently they moved to Leeds and got a couple of dogs, one called Pernod. On walking into the kitchen, a feisty colleague looked askance at the filth-caked kitchen lino. "You could do with a bit of Flash on this floor," she drily remarked. Pernod and his companion had fleas. So did the entire house. The programme wasn't without its ironies - narrator Neil Pearson is best known for his role in Drop the Dead Donkey, and it struck me as odd that a city by the name of Leeds should have such a problem with stray dogs.

Davies's staff were impressively unimpressed with their new recruit, putting the gung-ho trainee straight on more than one occasion. Unlike last week's whitewash, in which the chief executive of Lambeth council came over suspiciously well, this week's film was more realistic. A rescued feline represented the hard-pressed staff; a tired, toothless scrag of cat whose tongue poked out to avoid a painful ulcer. In one scene, Davies and his chaperone argued on the doorstep about the shortage of RSPCA phone operators. In the background, a dog's barks went unheeded.

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