Drinking with the Girls, BBC3
Georgia's Story: 33 Stone at 15, BBC1
Kirstie's Homemade Home, Channel 4
The small screen was short on female role models last week – it's enough to make you reach for the chardonnay
Sunday 26 April 2009
Last week's television promised to tackle some thorny questions. Why are women drinking more than ever before? How does a 15-year-old girl come to weigh 33 stone? And where can I find the gear to knock out a few homemade candles and transform my derelict bathroom into a palatial wonderland? Answers, however, were not always forthcoming.
Drinking with the Girls was a frustrating documentary that asked an intriguing question and then answered a less interesting one. British women, we were told by presenter Cherry Chadwyck-Healey, drink 11 times more than their Italian counterparts. Binge-drinking is on the rise among girls and, if you believe media reports, every other woman in the UK spends her weekends passing out on pavements and intimidating bus drivers.
Chadwyck-Healey was going to get to the bottom of those super-sized glasses of chardonnay (we later saw her vomiting into a toilet) to find out if there was any truth in the hype and, if so, why. Great! Except that she wasn't, and didn't. She was actually going to go on a series of boozy nights out with groups of women at different stages in their lives – the "seven ages of drinking" – and film the inevitably messy results.
It was a flawed approach. From Lambrini-chugging teens to OAPs with a penchant for rosé, the reasons given for excessive drinking ranged from escapism to relaxation and, frequently, the confidence-boosting effect. Aren't those the same reasons men drink? Since the programme didn't speak to any, the question was left hanging.
Absent too were the middle- and upper-class drinkers – where were the yummy mummies and the successful young urbanites who like a glass or 10 every bit as much as a single mum from Blackpool? Chadwyck-Healey's feeble summation was that alcohol is "many things to many people". Yep, I thought, reaching for my glass, and sometimes it's a handy way to get through a disappointing piece of television.
Georgia's Story: 33 Stone at 15 made for a more satisfying watch. It tracked the progress of Georgia Davis, who hit the headlines last year with the unenviable title of Britain's heaviest teen, as she embarked on a demanding weight-loss programme at a specialist American school.
It wasn't just Georgia getting an education. In an hour this humane film managed to explode some of the most commonly held stereotypes about obesity, drawing a subtle picture of a girl who lost one parent at five and just a few years later found herself the main carer of the other.
Laziness was not the problem – Georgia had schoolwork sent home so she could cook, clean, shop and care for her mother. (Where social services were at this point was not explained.) Nor was it down to lack of intelligence; Georgia was an articulate girl, mature for her age in many ways.
It turned out Georgia didn't need Gillian McKeith to put her on a diet of seaweed and quinoa; she just needed space to be a teenager. Of course, there were lessons in healthy eating and lots of exercise, but what really seemed to bring her out of herself was the chance to relax in the company of other teens in an environment where nobody was going to condemn her for her size. Georgia finished the documentary eight stone lighter and counting, and the rest of us lost a few unhelpful preconceptions along the way.
If, like me, you had hoped the downturn might kill off all those home/ clothes/body makeover programmes, the outlook is bleak. Kirstie Allsopp is back, and in Kirstie's Homemade Home she's doing her darnedest to make you yearn for a kooky, artisan home full of objects handcrafted yourself.
As Allsopp broke out the superlatives to describe the joys of hand-printed wallpaper and eulogised a small square of stained glass she had made as if it were the finishing touch to the windows of Chartres cathedral, even she didn't seem to believe what she was spouting. Still, at least it didn't make me want to leap up and buy anything. Not even a reasonably priced stained-glass making kit. Maybe there is a silver lining after all.
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