Television review

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Cutting Edge (Channel 4) this week was for people who have reached that stage in life where you stop fantasising that you're a missing member of the Friends cast and begin to realise you're the problem guest in an episode of Thirtysomething - the awkward one who makes it difficult to balance genders at the dinner table. Suddenly the world has clotted into couples and families and the old social fluidity has gone, a fact which makes it still harder to catch up - if that's what you want to do.The ticking of the biological clock isn't audible only to women, either: "The men you meet would automatically assume that's all you're after," said one woman about her growing maternal urge, "and the trouble is, they're right - you are."

At such moments the youthful contempt many people feel for artificial aids begins to fade, and the three women in Lucy Sandys-Winsch's film offered a neat spread of the obvious alternatives to unreliable accident: a lonely hearts ad, a dating agencyand - cutting out the middleman altogether - a syringeful of donated semen. The last course was the one adopted by Jan, a nanny who had decided that the five-minute thrill of romance never really compensated for the disappointment that was bound to follow. She would have found no difficulty in securing eager volunteers for a more direct form of conception but she had decided that would involve deceit, so had signed up with a London clinic instead. She also said that she had thought about what she would tell her child when it eventually asked where its father was - but didn't offer her solution to this tricky dilemma. Clearly, "in a freezer in Harley Street" might raise more questions than it answered.

Jan lived in cheerful companionship with her sister, but the two other women in the film were still hoping to follow a more conventional route into family life. There wasn't a great deal here that you hadn't seen before, in other documentaries about

dating agencies or lonely hearts columns, but it was nicely done even so, with one woman in particular offering a very winning account of the agonies of turning yourself into a romantic commodity. Sarah was first seen giggling with a friend over the

wording of her advert - she removed "big feet" as a desired quality after deciding that it might sound suggestive, but then failed to spot the sexual implications of the word "active". That scene was followed by one in which they giggled together as

they listened to the responses. The first wince came when one of the callers announced that he was "pretty grounded", the second (much more extravagant) when the same man owned up to a beard. As she listened Sarah squirmed at the idea that she now represented a hopeful fantasy to these men. "I wish I'd never disturbed them" she said, sweetly forgetting that disturbance was exactly what they were hoping for. The final announcements didn't offer you any of the happy endings you might have wished for - no pregnancy, no engagement, no hopeful prospect, even. But I have a feeling that this excursion into national television advertising may generate quite a few extra offers.

The women in Fighting for Dignity (ITV) had their eye on the clock, too, though the ticking here was more baleful. Desmond Wilcox's film followed the campaign of Annie Lindsell and others suffering from terminal diseases to win the legal right to euthanasia. Both talked of their fate (and ours too, don't forget) without terror - Lindsell's self-selected epitaph was "Died a mess but didn't miss much", while that of Jane McDonald, who had taken up the campaign after Lindsell's death, was "She didn't do much harm".

The film wasn't made easier to follow by the decision to use the historic present in the early sections, which misleadingly implied that Lindsell was still alive. This may have been an attempt to preserve the shock of death in what had become a posthumous film or a sentimental nod to the consolations of memory, but it proved distracting rather than affecting. I could also have done without the Enya sound track, redundantly instructing viewers to adopt an attitude of melancholy reflection.The women themselves, though, were very impressive - almost always thinking of what they could still do, rather than what they would never do again.

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