Last Night's TV - One Born Every Minute, Channel 4; Baking Made Easy, BBC2; Episodes, BBC2
Laughter, tears and jiggery-pokery
Tuesday 01 February 2011
At the start of
One Born Every Minute, we are told that there are 40 cameras in the maternity hospital (the Princess Anne in Southampton), which obviously allows for a lot of jiggery-pokery in the editing suite. I suspect that there must have been more than a little jigging and poking, or cutting and splicing, or however they do it these days, in the making of last night's edition of this riveting series. It would truly have been a gift from the documentary gods had Amelia, an 18-year-old from Eastern Europe whose boyfriend, Michal, couldn't be contacted seemingly on account of the fact that he was sleeping off a hangover somewhere, really been giving birth at the same time as middle-class, 37-year-old Lucy, whose husband, James, was not only supportively at her side, but couldn't leave the room to fetch her lip balm without mutual assurances of love.
Whatever, there was duly lots of meaningful cutting from Amelia to Lucy and back again, and even if it was rigged, it was engrossing television, raising all kinds of pertinent questions about the very different lives that the two baby boys, Russell (Amelia's) and Benjamin (Lucy's), have in front of them.
Russell was Amelia's first child. She seemed like a sweet girl, with proper grown-up concerns about motherhood. "I think my boyfriend, he's not been ready to be a father," she said, and admitted that she had considered putting the baby up for adoption. At least her mum was with her, holding her hand and mistaking the dishy male midwife for a doctor. Meanwhile, if it really was meanwhile, James was telling us that he and Lucy, whose third pregnancy this was, had been students at Warwick University at the same time, and, quelle coincidence, had been in simultaneous but different productions of Guys and Dolls! Lucy, it transpired, came from a long line of classical musicians. Grandma had been a concert pianist, and grandpa was principal viola in the Liverpool Philharmonic. She herself had sung in the chorus of the Vienna State Opera, and James explained proudly that her singing voice made the hairs stand up on the back of his neck.
"I love you," she said, blowing him a kiss.
"Oh Jesus, I feel like I'm going to shit myself," cried Amelia, a few rooms (and possibly a few days or weeks) away.
Far from the maternity hospital, on the sofa in my front room, I tried to remember the last time the same programme had made me laugh out loud and moved me to tears. This one did, but then I'm a sucker for childbirth. Russell came out with Amelia on all fours, bellowing, while Benjamin was delivered by Caesarean section, with Lucy calmly listening to Purcell and Handel.
"Why me?" Amelia had said between gulps of gas and air, when the dishy male midwife asked if she had any questions. "Only you can answer that ... nine months ago it was fun, wasn't it?" he replied, which seemed a little judgmental, although it turned out he was only warming up, later opining that the feckless Michal didn't deserve to have the baby named after him. It must be hard not to make judgments in a maternity hospital, but as a rule midwives should probably try to do the opposite of what they tell their mums-to-be, and hold them in.
Anyway, sticking with buns in the oven, the presenter of Baking Made Easy, Lorraine Pascale, is a genuine find. She's lovely to look at – which I don't think is a sexist observation, not even nudging the needle on the new Gray-Keys scale of one to 10 – and has a nice, easy manner in front of the camera, which should stand her in good stead for a few more series and maybe even national treasure status somewhere down the line. On top of which, she can cook, which might not be the only or even the main prerequisite for landing your own cookery show these days but is still a fairly significant consideration.
Last night she cooked whisky and chilli tiger prawns, not an obvious recipe for a programme called Baking Made Easy, but then she defines baking, conveniently, as anything cooked in the oven. She also identified her favourite three "flavour enhancers", namely marsala, mint and vanilla, and it occurred to me that the makers of cookery shows also have three favourite devices to enhance their ingredients: insistent music, tricksy camerawork and sexiness. It can be the sexiness of the presenter, or the location, or the food, but it's got to be there. Fanny Cradock must be turning, or perhaps churning, in her grave.
So must the strict Presbyterian Lord Reith, with multiple Fs and even a couple of Cs in the latest episode of Episodes. This is a frustrating comedy, three-quarters of the way to being very funny, but getting there only sporadically.
Actually, I think my review of the opening episode still holds up: the problem lies with our very own Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan, whose banter – as very English husband-and-wife scriptwriters relocated to Hollywood – never quite convinces, probably because it was written by Americans. Which makes Episodes a case of life imitating art imitating life, or maybe the other way round. Whatever, I hate to seem in thrall to the big starry name, but it's Matt LeBlanc playing a revved-up version of himself who makes the thing worth watching, and who gets all the best lines. Catchphrases are cheesy, said Sean (Mangan) last night. "Really," said LeBlanc. "Tell that to my house in Malibu."
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