Last Night's TV: Superhuman: Britain's Biggest Babies, ITV1
Back to You, MORE4

Baby boomers need a helping hand

The star of Superhuman: Britain's Biggest Babies was Joseph, who weighed 14 pounds at birth, twice the size of the average newborn, and heavy enough to win him a spot on Richard & Judy. At two and half, he was wearing jeans designed for nine-year-olds. The commentary described him as "a three-year-old trapped in an eight-year-old's body", though the real danger must be that there's an eight-year-old trapped somewhere inside him – he could have swallowed it when nobody was looking.

Until very recently – five years ago, somebody here suggested – babies Joseph's size were rare; but now, outsize babies are becoming more and more common, a by-product of ever-rising levels of obesity, and most of them the offspring of overweight mothers. According to the commentary for this film, the change "signals a sickness in society", to which I have to say: look who's talking. If it's evidence of a sickness in society you want, then take a good look at all the television programmes dedicated to pointing fingers at the freaks, the outliers from the mean, the fattest, the hairiest, the ugliest. And if we are, as a society, getting pudgier, how much of that is down to comfort eating brought on by television, with its constant reminders that we're too fat, too hairy, too ugly?

In this case, the finger-pointing was disguised by euphemisms – these children and their mothers were always "big", which could mean muscular or large-framed, rather than straight-out "fat" or "obese" – and medical panic-mongering. It's true that these really large babies bring all sorts of problems. One is the sheer awkwardness of popping one out in the first place. Karen, who weighs 23 stone, talked of the horror of her first pregnancy (Shane, at birth, we were told, was the size of an average Christmas turkey), when going to the lavatory cost so much effort and pain that she often just sat where she was and wet herself. Then there is the birth: anaesthetists unable to locate the right spot for an epidural among the flab, melon heads and sumo bodies tearing a swathe through the birth canal. We also met Courtney, who was left with torn muscles in her neck, unable to hold her head up properly. It's not easy for the child, either, who afterwards has to face up to all the potential complications of fatness, such as diabetes and, most importantly, teasing: Joseph's mother, Sara, and her identical twin, Lisa, talked about the bullying they had to put up with at school. Lisa burst into tears at the recollection.

Even if there's a real subject here, though, the programme reduced it to a series of scary anecdotes. There was a feeble effort to bring in some science, including "shocking experiments on rats"; actually, this was nothing more shocking than feeding rats a diet high in fat, sugar and salt, which I'm guessing the rats enjoyed. It turned out that the offspring of mother rats fed on this simulated junk-food diet showed a preference for junk themselves. This is worrying, the commentary said, because we have a lot of DNA in common with rats (which doesn't sound like good science: does this mean that we could live in sewers and thrive on a diet of faeces?). I'd have liked to hear less about genes and more about levels of income and education; but there are some kinds of sickness in our society that prime-time TV doesn't like to think about.

The strategy of basing schedules around high-profile US signings – Heroes on BBC2, House and CSI on Five – which has worked so well for British channels over the years, seems to be coming unstuck, what with the writers' strike in the US, and what seems to be a growing fashion for cancelling shows in the middle of the season. More4 was caught out last year with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and this year with the sitcom Back to You. Is it mere coincidence that both these shows were set behind the scenes at a TV show? Could it be that TV executives have overestimated the public's appetite for such things?

The demise of Back to You was news because it was supposed to be a vehicle for Kelsey Grammer, star of Frasier, one of the most successful sitcoms in history. The situation here is that Grammer's character is a TV news anchorman who, after a decade of success in LA, gets fired and returns to his home town, Pittsburgh, to rebuild his career in local TV. It's a standard-issue newsroom spoof, based on the notion that all TV people are prima donnas with good skin and rodent brains. There are some OK lines: responding to a compliment on her youthful looks, his on-screen partner said, "You even said it with a straight face." Grammer: "I'm chock-full of Botox." Ach, you had to be there. I'm not a big Grammer fan, but his timing is flawless. Unfortunately, the script seems to be chock-full of Botox, too: all the wrinkles of character and situation that made Frasier interesting have been smoothed out. In any case, better not get too cosy with it, when you know it's not long for this world.

Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
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.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape