REVIEW / Good intentions and added incentives

BABY MONTHLY (BBC 2) is a canny piece of programming which manages to combine extreme economy of means with a fair guarantee of audience obsession. Several prospective parents have been handed video cameras and told to record the progress of their new babies over their first year. A casual remark from one of the participants hinted at the true appeal of the series: 'We always intended to keep a video diary,' she confessed, 'but this will give us an added incentive.'

Without the incentive, I can assure her, the intention soon falls by the wayside. After months of bad sleep and serial bottom- wiping, the prospect of getting out the video camera yet again competes very poorly with the prospect of slumping on to the sofa with a drink big enough to make Mrs Bottomley frown. The rationale for laziness is too powerful - he'll do it again tomorrow, you think, but before you know it he's 15 and in a position to refuse to be filmed lying on his tummy in the bath. So, courtesy of the fact that most babies look the same anyway, Baby Monthly supplies you with a ready-made set of video memories. I hope they've all been instructed to film in close-up so grandparents won't be distracted by odd pieces of furniture they haven't seen before.

A large part of the appeal of Baby Monthly is that, whether what we see on screen is dazzling or dull, it all has the charm of truth, underwritten by the grainy incompetence of the video footage. 'Bambino Mio', last night's Screen One (BBC 1), ended with the caption 'A true story', a phrase which, in my notes, immediately follows the complaint that the narrative was as 'mechanically constructed for ups and downs' as a roller coaster. I won't withdraw entirely. It's true that real life can take the form of bad art sometimes but then it may be the duty of good art to try and conceal the fact. In any case I doubt that the reversals of fortune in the original case quite so conveniently obeyed the first rule of melodrama - that extremes of joy must be followed by extremes of misery. In Colin Welland's account of a woman's attempt to adopt a South American baby you could pretty much guarantee that if everybody in the foreground was smiling with relief some thunder-faced bureaucrat would sidle into position in mid-shot, ready to rain on the parade.

The drama was summed up by one of its more unconvincing characterisations - a psychiatrist who has the unusual professional habit of interrupting his patients to end their sentences for them. Alice (Julie Walters) has to visit him as part of the bureaucratic steeple-chase involved in adopting a foreign child and he's not the only figure who seems over-eager to spell out the issues. Even the wife of an unscrupulous Venezuelan baby-trader takes time out to prod members of the audience who might not have got the point ('Sometimes I think what a helluva way to make a living - taking kids from their mothers,' she says during a brief access of conscience). If the social worker involved had entered a scene with a placard reading 'Moral issue number three: do we want children for their good or our own?' you wouldn't have been very surprised.

That the thing worked at all was down to Julie Walters, who got me by the throat on several occasions with her portrayal of a woman starving for motherhood and snappy with those standing between her and the table. But Welland's script rarely matched her level of emotional truth, flirting with conflict in several scenes but shying away from the irresolvable nature of the issues involved. Even though Alice leaves most of the officials with bad friction burns, several of them turn up for the hearing in which she finally wins out, streaming out of court behind her in a scene that looked more like a Coca Cola commercial than serious drama.

Lenny Henry's exploration of African- American humour for the South Bank Show (ITV) was missing some obvious interviewees but made up for it with a funny, melancholy film which managed to wear its politics well.

Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
artSistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence