Last Night's TV: Embarrassing Bodies, Channel 4; Waking The Dead, BBC1

Glove story got just the right treatment

The voiceover at the start of last night's Embarrassing Bodies told us that a team of doctors would be crossing the country in a mobile clinic "leaving no orifice unprobed" and within moments of them arriving in Leeds it was clear that the voiceover wasn't kidding, as a camera took us on a voyage up the fundament of a woman called Pauline, with John Logie Baird and Lord Reith doubtless going varying shades of purple in the celestial Green Room.

When Baird became the first person to transmit a moving image on television, and Reith defined the broadcaster's mission as being to "inform, educate and entertain", it is safe to say that neither of those beetle-browed Scotsmen expected the new medium, after 80 years of progress, to whisk the nation up a middle-aged woman's back passage. On the other hand, I can't claim that the spectacle wasn't informative and educational, even if it left something to be desired, entertainment-wise. On balance, and I admit it's a close-run thing, give me Cannon and Ball.

Still, it was fascinating to watch people who in some cases had been reluctant to visit their GPs with sensitive fungal complaints quite cheerfully dropping their underwear with a Channel 4 camera crew in attendance. What a strange age this is, when a TV camera is considered less invasive than a doctor's speculum. I hope Pauline had given full and considered thought to the looks she's going to get next time she's shopping at Morrisons. Maybe she'll get a round of applause. I for one was certainly very pleased on her behalf that the Embarrassing Bodies team were able to reassure her that what she described with a shaky voice as "this thing that I have", a little plectrum of skin at the entrance of her anus, was nothing to worry about, and could be surgically removed with ease. Apparently, her thing had been preventing Pauline from entering sexual relationships. "These men, they want to explore everything and anything," she said. I couldn't help thinking that her real problem was her men, not her thing.

Maybe that's Leeds for you. I don't know. I do know, thanks to the voiceover, that Leeds has a population of 700,000, which means that 50,000 are suffering from constipation, and 350,000 will get piles at some point in their lives. If I remember my limericks correctly, Leeds is also the home of the young man who swallowed a packet of seeds, with the unfortunate result that within an hour his nose was a flower and his head was a riot of weeds. That's the wholesome version, anyway. Strangely, he didn't turn up at the Embarrassing Bodies clinic.

A woman called Rachel did. She had psoriasis sores all over her body, and was referred to a place in London, where she was successfully given ultra-violet light treatment. Another woman, called Alison, was worried about her vagina. Needless to say, we got a full and frank view. It looked all right to me, but what do I know? Like Pauline, Alison was told that minor surgery was the answer, and went away happy. Embarrassing Bodies, which continues every night until Thursday, is surprisingly uplifting. Never mind Britain's Got Talent. Get Ant and Dec to present, replace Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan and Amanda Holden with three doctors, call it "Britain's Got Scabs", and it could be a hit show for Saturday evenings.

The BBC will be cross with me for giving such astute advice to its rivals, especially at a time when it needs as many hits as it can get. One of them is Waking the Dead, which each week presents a body beyond the help even of the Embarrassing Bodies team. Last night, it was that of a decapitated soldier found in a shallow grave, part one of a story concluding this evening. It's a story that, in no particular order, features filial love, parental guilt, military discipline, gay cruising, Iraq, equine parasites and advanced putrefaction.

The difference between decent British and American TV drama, I sometimes think, is that our writers try a little too hard. The plots of Waking the Dead surely don't have to be quite as labyrinthine as they are, and they measure up poorly against the perfect simplicity and economy of the marvellous Mad Men, for example. I know they're different kinds of show, but in a way that's irrelevant. Drama should engage, not bamboozle.

Waking the Dead gets away with its fiendishly complicated plots largely on account of its fine cast, superbly led by Trevor Eve, although my favourite is Tara Fitzgerald as the pathologist, Dr Lockhart. When did pathologists start looking like Tara Fitzgerald? They used to look like Jack Klugman. Anyway, beavering away in her lab (note to writers: lab stands for laboratory, not labyrinth), she found soil deposits under the deceased's fingernails, containing eggs from a parasitic worm that inhabits a horse's anal regions. I wasn't at all sure why that was relevant. I was too busy hoping that Pauline from Leeds wasn't watching.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
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
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
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

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

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
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
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.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    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