Watermen: a Dirty Business, BBC2 - TV review


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The Independent Culture

Watermen: a Dirty Business was BBC2's other premiere of the evening along with The Big Allotment Challenge. The first episode of this six-part documentary series included a few scenic shots of Cumbrian reservoirs, but don't be fooled, this is a show about people who wade through faeces for a living.

It was filmed during one of the hottest summers on record, as evidenced by Martha Reeves singing "Heatwave" on the soundtrack and children playing in the spray of an open fire hydrant, just like it was Brooklyn in the summer of '63. Except, this was a Salford council estate in the summer of 2013.

No such frolics for customer service technicians Adrian and Wes. They were waging a two-man war against the flushed baby wipes and sanitary towels which are almost exclusively responsible for blocked drains across the nation. Hopefully, you'd already eaten your dinner by the time Adrian began describing what he found in the drains of a local abattoir.

Remarkably, Adrian himself was eating a chicken goujon throughout this entire anecdote. A resilient stomach is one of the two must-have qualities for a rewarding career in the sewers (you can get used to any foul smell apart from a rancid fat blockage, apparently). The other is a sense of humour that's nine parts "toilet" to one part "gallows": "The easiest way to describe it, is it just smells like poo," said Adrian, standing over a particularly repugnant swamp of human excrement. "It doesn't taste good either."