Last Night's TV - The Biology of Dads, BBC4; Tribal Wives, BBC2; Mongrels, BBC3

Men of an uncertain age

One wonders a little about the timing of the BBC's Fatherhood series – at a time when Wimbledon and the World Cup are not making it easy for even the most enlightened male to find time for the little grace notes of child-rearing. As one of the children asked about parental roles in
The Biology of Dads put it: "My dad always watches the football and my mum does the cleaning up." Or watches a season about fatherhood, perhaps, muttering darkly as her worst fears about paternal deficiency are confirmed. And, though football isn't quite the magnetic distraction for me that I know it is for other males, I confess that I was a reluctant viewer as well. The problem with fatherhood documentaries – if you have three teenagers – is that they're all too likely to tell you what you did wrong 10 years ago.

Or even longer in the case of The Biology of Dads, which began with a prospective father crooning endearments at his wife's pregnancy bump, establishing that even at this stage the unborn child responds to its father's voice. As it happens, I did conduct a small experiment along these lines with my own first-born, repeatedly informing him that "Lima is the capital of Peru", but I cannot report that this attempt at hothousing produced any notable results. He showed no special aptitude for geography and isn't overwhelmed by mysterious feelings of all-encompassing comfort whenever Peru is mentioned. And if you think that experiment lacked rigour, you may not have been entirely satisfied with the "experiments" Laverne Antrobus conducted in The Biology of Dads, all of them short on controls and sample size.

The bullet points were these. All those young men who fear that fatherhood will emasculate them are dead right. Not only do the level of female hormones rise in men when they hold newborn babies, but their testosterone levels nose-dive at the same time – this being nature's answer to the fact that males are inclined to look at a newborn cub and think "Should I look after it... or eat it?" Fortunately, the testosterone levels do recover, because the masculinity of the father comes into its own later during play. Apparently – and please address your letters about gender stereotyping and social reinforcement to the programme and not to me – fathers encourage children to take more risks and improve their language acquisition by talking way above their heads. In other words, their cluelessness is not a liability but a positive benefit.

That was the underlying text here. Yes, you can take some time off to watch the football, but your continued presence is essential to the psychological health and future development of your child. Strikingly, the continued presence of a father can even affect the rate at which daughters mature, with girls from broken marriages, or with absentee fathers reaching puberty earlier than those with a dad at home. It's an effect explained by a kind of evolutionary scramble to secure another protective male (re indignant letters, please see earlier note).

That fathers can have a profound impact on their children, even when they're not around, was underlined by this week's Tribal Wives, the series in which dissatisfied women go halfway around the world to be dissatisfied in a different location in order to discover that it may be better to be dissatisfied with a flushing toilet. This week, Becky, a depressed London PA, went to the island of Kitava, off Papua New Guinea, a Bounty bar vision of paradise. "Yams are at the centre of island life," announced the voiceover, which didn't promise much in the way of cultural sophistication. Sure enough, yams were everywhere, even painted ones hung from the eaves of the houses as part of the annual yam festival, which seemed to be Christmas rolled up with Easter and a hefty side serving of yams. Becky went through the usual motions – jibbing slightly against the patriarchal restraints of island society then bonding with a local woman who was likely to be left with nothing out of the exercise except a sense of loss and curtailed horizons. But she also rather touchingly talked about her unresolved need to have some evidence – however slender – that her own father gave a damn. It wasn't a Pacific island that held the answer, it was somewhere like Peckham or Hoxton, or wherever he lives now.

Mongrels has been described as a puppet show for adults – a worrying phrase, less for the "puppets" bit than the word "adult", which usually means exactly the opposite. It's a kind of soft-toy sitcom, centred on a group of inner-city animals, which include Marion (an overweight cat with an accent who wanders around the southern Mediterranean), a ghetto-talking pigeon and a sensitive fox called Nelson, who has problems with confrontation. The "adult'" bit turns out to mean swear words and a slightly strained determination not to play safe with the comedy. There were jokes here about Christopher Reeve's accident, Harold Shipman and the discovery of Anne Frank by German troops (she's exposed because she shouts "Yahtzee" at the wrong moment). It does have its laughs, though, because the script isn't entirely about crass shock value. Last night's episode, for example, featured a Romeo and Juliet storyline in which Nelson the fox fell in love with a chicken (they'd both been economical with the truth on an online dating site). "There's a Nando's around the corner," he suggested, when they first met. "Oh... sorry... I didn't think." Puppets, yes. Funny, yes. But not really for grown-ups.

Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

film
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Arts and Entertainment
Sassoon threw his Military Cross into the Mersey
booksAn early draft of ‘Atrocities’ shows the anti-war sentiment was toned down before publication
Arts and Entertainment
Actors and technicians on the march against changes made by Hollande
theatreOpening performances of the Avignon theatre festival cancelled as actors and technicians walk out
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West performed in a chain mail mask at Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park
Rapper booed at Wireless over bizarre rant
Arts and Entertainment

They're back, they're big – and they're still spectacularly boring

film
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.

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil