Goo TV: it's This Life, with nappies

TV's 'now' generation is having kids. That's why our screens are about to be flooded with baby shows, says Michael Collins
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"Kids are the new football,"says TV producer Kathy Myers. "The thirtysomething generation that once asked each other what drugs they were taking, what famous person they were seeing, now ask each other about what it is like having kids."

The small screen has discovered its next big thing by thinking tiny - broadcasting is about to witness a baby boom. Forget The Word and The Girlie Show, the hottest TV proposals these days star toddlers, even teenagers, although the emphasis is on the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

The first-born of this genre, Baby Baby, is due to go out on Channel 4 each weekday throughout September. Originally titled Goo TV, the show will be screened somewhere between Teletubbies and the afternoon feed.

It is the brainchild of Myers for Wall To Wall Television. She hit on the idea while home on maternity leave, waiting for her waters to break. "I realised that there was a gap in the schedule for a programme for parents and children that was not safe and worthy, but fun and informative," she says.

The series intends to give a factual and practical guide to bringing up kids in the Nineties, from pregnancy to school days. What distinguishes this new breed of baby TV from its older siblings, according to Myers, is the emphasis on hipness, humour and celebrity. It's all a far cry from the factual and clinical approach of shows such as the BBC's Making Babies, returning for a second series, and Carlton's recent Baby Matters.

Comedian Roland Rivron and Yvette Fielding, formerly of Blue Peter, are the show's presenters and both are parents. "As a comedian and a father, Roland has an interest in how to tell if a child has a fever and he also has his own comic tips on toilet training," says Myers.

As well as trying to see the funny side of epidurals, natural childbirth and post-natal depression, celebrity mums and dads, including Sharron Davies and Jonathan Ross, will provide video diaries of themselves with their kids. There will be no teenage mothers with straw hair and dusty cleavages dragging a double buggy up the stairs of a tower block when the lift is out of order. This is about kids who are to the media born. Welcome to bringing up baby the N1 way. Remember those new Labour pains over state education that gave Tony and Harriet sleepless nights?

Baby Baby is recorded at a house in Islington which the production company has rented and kitted out with all the accoutrements of media class parenthood: gripe water, Gap Kids and Granta, natch. There is a real bathroom for guests to test new rubber ducks on the market, and a kitchen for practical instruction on feeding kids greens and, no doubt, sun-dried tomatoes.

Essentially, here are the parental experiences of north London's beau monde transposed from the post-prandial chat to the post-lunch magazine show. Here, also, is confirmation that a generation within television has come of age and that maybe their ideas are as dried up as a tub of Cow & Gate.

Carlton's Parenting Week, which hits our screens in October, will take the kids-are-the-new-football theme even further. Much of its output under this banner will focus on fatherhood, with input from celebrity dads. "Carlton puts the 'Pa' into parenting," explains the press release.

Adrienne Burgess, a consultant on the programme, claims that she wants the show to "restore men's confidence in their own ability to be effective parents". One of the contributors to Parenting Week, John Griffiths, believes that sometimes "men need the space to discover they can be just as competent parents as women".

The brains behind Baby Baby and the Carlton season were once twentysomething television folk who cut their teeth on media-friendly programmes such as The Late Show. This generation has now worked its way towards the mainstream and into home, hearth and hobby programming. The evolution of their lifestyle corresponds with the rise of the lifestyle programming they have created and commissioned.

After a number of series on transforming homes, moving homes, decorating interiors, gardening, pets, cars and cookery, babies are, like the transition from a crawl to a walk, the next logical step. Baby Baby is an attempt to fit children and parents snugly into the television schedules in the way that programmes such as Home Front placed interior design, but in an afternoon slot previously colonised by cookery. Can the viewer make that quantum leap from Caesar salad to Caesarean section? From quiche to creche?

"The generation that grew up with punk, " says Myers, "are now parents. Each of us was shocked that Mothercare didn't do black maternity dresses. This show is for those who don't believe you have to wear floral prints and be preached at on parenthood by Dr Miriam Stoppard. There is a massive need in the market for shows like this."

If Baby Baby is a success, other recently conceived programmes on this theme will be commissioned and up and crawling in no time. The series The Trouble With Teenagers, chronicling the rites of passage of parents and their adolescent progeny, is all tied- up and ready to go. The parent could be the latest social group to define itself by a culture that only its members are privy to, and, like gays, blacks, women, girls and lads, be allocated a regular slice of airtime in which to espouse its cause.

It may be that baby shows one day forget that, like children themselves, they should always remember their place. Cookery, like other staples of lifestyle programming, was once content to be seen and not heard, tucked away in the daytime schedules between old soaps and Sooty. If the concept of the celebrity parent follows in the footsteps of the celebrity chef, babies may follow housecraft and home improvement into prime time, which of course is well past their bedtime.

It's at that juncture that television will wish it had decided on a termination, or at least smothered the idea at birth.

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