Last Night's TV - Neil Morrissey: Care Home Kid, BBC2; One Born Every Minute, Channel 4; Bored to Death, Sky Atlantic

Won over by a man behaving bravely

Fifteen years ago, the BBC ran a poll, part of BBC Television's 60th-birthday celebrations, to determine what the viewing public considered to be the greatest TV programmes, presenters, actors, whatever, of all time. In every category, a panel of supposed experts was invited to produce a shortlist, from which voters had to pick a favourite.

I say "supposed" because I was one of them. I was on the situation-comedy panel, and the BBC asked us to include a contemporary show, which we did. At the time the most popular home-grown sitcom was Men Behaving Badly, so on the list it went, together with Fawlty Towers, Porridge, Dad's Army and Steptoe & Son, any one of which would have been a decent choice, but blow me down if MBB didn't win, a dispiriting reminder that the viewing public has the collective memory of a goldfish.

So, by extension, most of us presumably have trouble now recalling a time when Men Behaving Badly was deemed the greatest sitcom in British television history, and when one of the actors it made famous, Neil Morrissey, was very much television's dish du jour. But it was, and he was, which makes it all the more extraordinary that so little was known about the seven years he spent in a Stoke-on-Trent children's home, after being taken away from his family at the age of 10 for habitual stealing.

He was put into care on the same day as his older brother, Steve, to whom he was extremely close. But they were sent to different homes, and didn't see each other for another 10 years. Heaven knows what kind of psychological effect this dislocation, and the sudden, forced separation from his parents, had on Morrissey, though he made a stab at explaining it here. I remember interviewing him in the mid-1990s, and while he made no secret of his background, he didn't much like to talk about it either. On the whole, the media respected this, which shows how standards have plummeted even in the past 15 years. Respect, for a celebrity's right to privacy? How quaint.

Anyway, Morrissey has now chosen to lift the lid himself on his time in care, and a two-part documentary, Care Home Kid, is the compelling and poignant result. I don't know why he has gone so public now. A fleeting reference to near-bankruptcy following some failed business ventures perhaps offered a clue, compounded by the fact that his star, unlike that of MBB's Martin Clunes and Caroline Quentin, has fallen right out of the TV firmament. Whatever, he remains an engaging screen presence, and there could hardly be anyone better qualified to examine Britain's care-home culture, currently responsible for the raising of almost 90,000 children.

Encouragingly, Morrissey visited an establishment in Scotland, Lothian Villa, which seemed like a model of how a children's home should be. But the focus was mainly on his own experiences almost 40 years ago, and those of his contemporaries, some of whom suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their so-called carers. He didn't, mercifully. But the most harrowing recollections came from those who had been in the same home as his brother Steve, who wasn't around to tell his own story, having died, aged 37.

Morrissey's mother didn't contribute, either, which was hardly surprising. Firing the whole project was his own enduring sense of outrage that such a trauma had been visited upon him because of petty thievery, and he went to visit the man who'd been the family's social worker with, as he put it, "guns loaded". But the social worker convinced him that he'd been put into care to protect rather than punish him: his Irish immigrant parents, both psychiatric nurses, had effectively allowed their four sons to become feral.

That our futures are dependent on who brings us into the world, and in what circumstances, has been the subtext of One Born Every Minute, which concluded last night. Ostensibly a documentary series about the ins, and more specifically the outs, at the Princess Anne maternity hospital in Southampton, One Born Every Minute, it has become increasingly clear, is actually a social, economic and cultural study of contemporary Britain that just happens to be through the prism of childbirth.

I have feared for some of the newborn babies carried through the swing-doors into a big and, for them, not especially promising world, but happily the final programme ended with no such qualms. Caroline and Chris, the parents of triplets, while understandably daunted to have started a day as a family of two and ended it as a family of five, seemed on top of their challenging situation. And you felt that Sarah and her younger partner, 25-year-old Nando, would be OK too. Nando was a self-proclaimed mummy's boy, but mummy's boys often make good daddies. Those of us who do have long TV memories can even remember one in a sitcom: Frank Spencer.

Another hapless sitcom hero was born last night. In Bored to Death, written by Jonathan Ames, Jason Schwartzman plays, erm, Jonathan Ames, a Brooklyn-based writer who whimsically decides to moonlight as a private detective. In fact, the show has been going since 2009 in the US, and on first acquaintance, it's extremely welcome here. Who knows, it might yet be voted the greatest of all time.

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little