Last Night's TV: Misbehaving Mums to Be/BBC3
The Animal's Guide to Britain/BBC2
Friday 15 April 2011
It's been a good hour since I watched Misbehaving Mums to Be and I'm still not quite sure how I feel. A bit... icky? Halfway between concerned and shame-faced? The former, because the facts presented really were alarming, the latter because, well, there's something terribly uncomfortable about poking one's nose into someone else's pregnancy. And then judging them on it. Still, it was riveting. Now, this might have something to do with the absence of a Y-chromosome in my makeup, but pregnancy – as far as I'm concerned – always is.
Twenty per cent of pregnant women smoke, we were told, which seems rather a lot, doesn't it? Even more so when you consider that only twenty per cent of women, on average, smoke. But it's true. I even called up Ash, the anti-smoking group, to ask and – what do you know? – they agree. One in five, and a full 68 per cent of pregnant teens. So there you go.
Anyway, one of them is Heather, who's 22 and expecting her second child. She puffed away throughout her first pregnancy and doesn't see why she should stop for this one, which, I suppose, is some sort of logic. It all changed, though, after a meeting with midwife Lisa, who specialises in getting expectant mothers off the fags. Lisa left Heather with no illusions as to her habit's effects, explaining how it stunts growth and showing her babies in intensive care. Heather was in floods, vowing to quit within five days. She didn't. Instead, she went walkabout, refusing to be filmed any longer.
It was a more successful story with our other two MMTB. Largely because they're not all that M in the first place. Juliet is a workaholic bar owner who, in her non-pregnant life, would have gone through four bottles of wine a day. Now she's sticking to one glass of red on a Sunday, which doesn't exactly warrant the little baby-necking-a-bottle-of-lager logo that flashes up whenever she's onscreen. Still, her midwife, Alison, wasn't too happy, and told her to get off the Sunday sauce immediately (hang on, wasn't there some study that a little bit of wine was good for the foetus?). Kayley, meanwhile, is a 16- stone fan of chips and gravy. She eats her favourite dish several days a week, the rest of the time living off frozen meals. Initial confusion over what constitutes a healthy meal ("Are you going to cook a gourmet four-star meal when you get in from work?" she asked friends, incredulously) rapidly melted away when she met her midwife. Before you knew it she was buying broccoli and doing squats.
Somewhere along the line, presumably to compensate for the lack of misbehaviour, Juliet's non-existent booze problem got conflated with a stress problem and so, instead of nursing her through hangovers, Alison spent most of her time trying to get Juliet to go to yoga. I'm with Juliet on this one: she found it impossible to get through a class without giggling, and can't heed Alison's call to work less because, well, she needs the money. But this is TV, and so a compromise was reached. Alison won't go to yoga, but she will host regular coffee and cupcake mornings. Which, well, never hurt anybody.
Chris Packham wants to find out how animals see Britain. In truth, that's not what really happened in The Animal's Guide to Britain. Aside from a brief reconstruction of a vole being chased around his burrow by assorted predators, there was little in the way of in-their-(metaphorical)-shoes insights. This is not, necessarily, a bad thing, because what we did get – a look at five freshwater creatures on their way back from extinction – was rather lovely.
There was the osprey, which a balaclava-clad Packham ("You won't have seen this on the catwalk this season") got to watch fishing in the Scottish highlands. And there was the dragonfly – "a triumph of evolution," with his compound eyes, unchanged for thousands of years. There was the water vole and the trout and – far and away my favourite – the beaver. Each one had been awarded some significance that led, eventually, to their extinction.
For instance: dragonflies were thought by medieval Englanders to be evil – so evil that they were in cahoots with snakes, which they could awake from the dead. Osprey eggs were treasured collectables among the Victorians. And the beaver was hailed for its testicles, which were believed to have pain-killing properties (they also flood land to build dams, which may or may not account for more widespread antagonism towards the poor, toothy things). Now conservationists are doing their best to reintroduce these species to Britain, be that by building fake nests complete with pretend birds in them (the osprey) or by culling the predatory mink (the voles). It's all rather sweet, and also rather fascinating, for the trivia if not the animal's guide.
A word on last night's instalment of The Kennedys. OK, so I know I rubbished it the first time around (apart, that is, from the wonderful Tom Wilkinson). And I stand by that. The hefty clump-clump of the mini-series format is horribly outdated and Katie Holmes really is abysmal as Jackie.
But – quite a big but – in spite of all the flaws, I've found myself returning. I've now watched the whole second episode – plus several more – on DVD, and I've every intention of continuing. Somehow, I've been sucked in.
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