My Weird and Wonderful Family, Channel 4
My Child's Big Fat Birthday Party, BBC1

This glimpse at the home life of the Drewitt-Barlows said more about individual weirdness than gay parenting

Where next for the shock doc?

Though the title promised freak-show voyeurism, the only shock in My Weird and Wonderful Family – a portrait of gay couple Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow bringing up their brood of artificially conceived kids and orchestrating the in-vitro conception of two more – was that, on the whole, it looked pretty normal.

Ten years ago, when the Drewitt-Barlows made history by fathering twins (with help from an egg donor and surrogate in California, and a cool quarter of a million quid), our social landscape was very different. An archive clip showed the pair being grilled on GMTV by Eamonn Holmes in full conduit-of-the-outraged-masses mode, railing about gay men wanting kids as "accessories" and "going against nature". Since then, we've seen civil partnerships, a gay X-Factor winner and countless prime-time gay storylines. Certainly, if you were going to take the Drewitt-Barlows as a model, those arguments around gay parenting might seem a lot less controversial these days.

The Drewitt-Barlow kids – daughter Saffron and boys Aspen and Orlando – seem well-adjusted and sweet-natured, and their interaction with their fathers ("Dad" and "Daddy") is loving but relaxed. Nor do they want for anything on a material level – no guarantee of happiness, but handy in matters such as shopping around for a supportive school. It helped too that the Drewitt-Barlows seemed to own half their village, their fiefdom extending to the pub and the hair salon.

Although charming subjects, I wasn't sure about the wisdom, or indeed ethics, of quizzing the children themselves. The question of whether a child brought up by gay parents is more likely to be gay (perhaps I am being obtuse but why does this obsess people so?) was touched on when they asked the boys whether they'd be gay or straight when they grew up. "Gay!" declared little Orlando exuberantly. But since he had, moments before, concluded that if he hadn't been born, he "would have been a crocodile", it struck me as pretty useless evidence.

Perhaps inevitably, the programme's main flaw was that it offered few wider conclusions. The Drewitt-Barlows were at pains to stress that there's no such thing as a representative family, thus their success can only be considered a self-contained story, a one-off.

What really unsettled, however, were the non-gay issues that were briefly touched on. Barrie displayed little grasp of the ethics of paying a woman for her eggs, arguing that it was legal in California, and equating probity and legality with a rather faulty logic, given that they went to the United States because paying for eggs is illegal in Britain.

And there was something, if not wrong, then shiver-inducingly sci-fi about the fact that the twins, Aspen and Orlando, had been implanted in surrogate mothers at different times, resulting in identical twins with a four-year age difference.

Assisted reproduction popped up again in My Child's Big Fat Birthday Party – one of those slightly trashy documentaries that follow the BBC News at 10pm as if someone has confused the schedule with BBC3.

Of course, all the adults here were behaving absurdly, spending thousands on their kids' single-figure birthdays. Suzanne, a Cardiff mum straight out of Gavin & Stacey ("Aw babe, you look lush, you look mega lush!") had been brought up a Jehovah's Witness and was making up for all the missed celebrations by throwing a Wild West party complete with bucking bronco for her bemused young son.

But there was something particularly unhealthy about one mum, who'd had her son through IVF and was now bringing him up alone. "He's the child who shouldn't have been," she said, before going on to describe her son in terms that would make Freud do cartwheels. Before the party (an extravaganza for 12 at a venue with capacity for 200), she dithered over wearing a feather-trimmed corset top that he'd picked out for her, as if he were some tyrannical husband.

All children bear the weight of their parents' love to some degree, but it was hard not to think that to be the fruit of the modern fertility struggle might place an intolerable pressure on a child.

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
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.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot