Last Night's Television - Muslim Driving School, BBC2; Girl Who Cries Blood, Channel 4; The Man Who Couldn't Stop Hiccuping, BBC1

Pretty hard to swallow

What an attractive spice medical confusion is for a certain kind of documentary. Barely seconds had passed in
The Man Who Couldn't Stop Hiccuping before we learned that NHS doctors were "totally baffled" by Chris Sands's problem and the cliché was echoed in the opening moments of Girl Who Cries Blood, where we discovered (surprise, surprise) that Twinkle Dwivedi's condition "defies medical understanding". It's the very first thing that goes into the pot in one of these medical sideshows, reassurance that you're not wasting your time on any common-or-garden oddity. But, as the contrast between these two very different films showed, the spice isn't always the real thing.

Chris Sands's problem might look funny on paper, but it was anything but in real life. "It has ruined my life, pretty much," he said wearily, grabbing an opportunity to speak when he wasn't bent double by spasms or gasping for breath. Convinced that his hiccuping was connected to a chronic problem with acid reflux, Chris had submitted himself to surgery to repair a weak stomach valve, and came round from the anaesthetic to face the deeply undesirable combination of involuntary contractions of the diaphragm and a fresh abdominal wound. "I will once again be able to eat a pepperoni pizza," he said – with the wan cheeriness he'd somehow managed to hold on to – but he still wouldn't be able to do it without hiccuping.

Then Chris attracted the attention of The World's Astonishing News!, a Japanese television show, described by the voiceover here as being "well known for its love of bizarre stories" (uttered as if the moral distinction between Japanese prurience and the British was too obvious to need spelling out). As a result, he spent eight days with Mr Kageyama, a self-taught therapist who flew to Britain on his own ticket and, with the help of a Hello Kitty English-Japanese dictionary, subjected Chris to a variety of alternative therapies, each one more painful and fruitless than the last. When all else had failed, he proposed skewering Chris with a six-inch needle behind the ribcage but was insistent on the need for the patient's compliance: "Iffa he... [and here he did a little pantomime of a squealing flinch]... Sayonara!" Sensibly, Chris declined the treatment.

Dr Kondo, a Tokyo specialist who examined Chris for a follow-up episode of The World's Astonishing News!, was more helpful, identifying a peanut-sized tumour pressing on Chris's brainstem that had been missed on the British scans. Back in Britain, Chris went to see a brisk neurosurgeon who clearly didn't believe in sugar-coating his briefings: "The potential for margin of error here is zero," he said, warning Chris against the possibilities of paralysis and worse. Luckily, Chris was under a general anaesthetic when it came to the critical moment: "Hush now, please," the surgeon told his team, "this is the part of the operation where I kill him." I'm not quite sure what the producers would have done if he really had, but fortunately it was just surgical bombast and Chris made a full recovery. The past tense in the programme's title, I'm glad to say, referred to the hiccups not to Chris.

In Girl Who Cries Blood, we got the operative verb in the present tense, though by the end of this dubious raree show, the only word you could really trust in the title was "girl". An account of a Lucknow teenager, Twinkle Dwivedi, who claims that she spontaneously exudes blood from various parts of her body, the film was artfully angled so that the most obvious explanation – publicity-seeking fraud or Munchausen's syndrome by proxy – was concealed from the viewer for as long as possible. To distract us on the way, we got bits of notionally investigative padding – a section on stigmata when Twinkle went to visit the Bishop of Lucknow, a brisk summary of Ayurvedic theory and Hindu religious practice when she went on pilgrimage and, most insultingly, a beginner's guide to the blood system when she finally fetched up in front of an American haematologist ("The heart pumps this blood through an intricate network of tubes called the blood vessels"). Inspecting Twinkle's gore-smeared face and seeing that there was no blood detectable on the inside of her eyelids, Dr Buchanan tactfully confronted mother and daughter with the possibility that they'd been making the whole thing up."Many other doctors haven't believed you," he said gently, a fact that the programme-makers could easily have shared with us 40 minutes earlier, if they hadn't known full well that it would affect the takings on the gate. Naturally, both denied it, but with an oddity of manner that struck me as being almost as good as a confession.

Muslim Driving School is a Trojan horse programme, notionally just another exercise in fly-on-the-dashboard observational but actually a way of exploring the daily lives of Muslim women. You could say that it aims to give us the human face that too often is concealed behind a veil.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk