Last night's viewing - Great Ormond Street, BBC2; Celebrity Exposed, Sky Arts 1

 

A documentary about children with cancer can only mean one thing: tears, in bucket-loads. I braced myself for an hour of overwrought emotions as I sat down to watch Great Ormond Street, so it was surprising, even unnerving, that this first episode in a new documentary series following the treatment of children with cancer at the famed London hospital, didn't make its audience cry. That's not to say that it didn't make us feel – it did – but not at the expense of taking us through the complex intellectual, medical and moral choices the adults around these ill children face.

Luna, aged four, and Shiani, aged five, both had brain cancers while Barnabus, aged two, had a tumour in his chest. It was clear that the parents were prepared to do whatever they had to do, embracing the most experimental or aggressive of treatments, however slim the chances. What seemed more difficult, in the face of continually developing drug treatments, was knowing when to stop. Dr Antony Michalski, a kind-faced child oncologist, summarised the predicament. "It's so understandable that you are going to do everything in your power as a parent to hunt down a cure, but where that becomes a futile exercise is a difficult line."

Luna's story illustrated just how difficult a line it could be. She had lived with her cancer for two years and the tumour remained unbeatable. It was the scenario of containment rather than cure that led her mother to the controversial Burzynski clinic in Texas against Dr Michalski's wishes. The doctor kept his protests gentle when talking to Luna's mother, with lines like "well, you know how I feel about this", but reflecting on camera afterwards, he sharply criticised the distorted hope that such clinics offered parents. At one point, he said: "There comes a time when you know, realistically, children in a given situation are unlikely to be cured.... [it's about] walking the walk with them."

It was certainly difficult to watch Luna, wheezing and gulping down water after her treatment in Texas, which made her look worse rather than better. Shiani's parents had their own awful dilemma to handle. They were invited to embark on a high-risk treatment that was only administered to the worst cases and that could cure her or kill her with its high dose chemotherapy. Her parents were shown Googling the treatment and discovering stark statistics in one German study in which three survived out of 29 on the treatment. It wasn't just a matter of life or death either. These children, if they survive, may well face setbacks for the rest of their lives. Shiani's operation effectively meant taking a lump out of her brain, which would lead to learning disabilities later in life. A deeply absorbing hour that highlighted the random nature of child cancer and the quiet heroism of the professionals and parents who tread the difficult line.

Richard Young is considered to be Britain's first celebrity photographer and a "life and times" documentary Celebrity Exposed showed him to be something of a Gentleman Pap in the mid Seventies – he was known for his discretion and good manners, ready to put down his camera if a compromised celebrity asked him to. Which pap would do the same if Cheryl Cole asked today? Yet his legacy can be felt in the hungry packs of long-lens paparazzi on scooters today, as David Bailey reflected: "I suppose it opened the floodgates to all this awful celebrity business."

Back at the birth of British pap-dom, Young took on the advice of his father, a market-stall merchant, and applied it to photographing the stars: "If you're nice to people, if you are polite to them, you will get back just as much as you put in." Before Young, photographers didn't pitch up to the Dorchester or the Ritz, and they certainly didn't strike up mutually beneficial pacts with celebrities. Vivienne Westwood's words captured the innocence of a bygone age: "I had heard of the word paparazzi but I thought they were all Italian."

Suggested Topics
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
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
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.

    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
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home