The popular reality show, ‘Sue the Midwife’, returns to BBC schedules this weekend promising to deliver bundles of joy to a Saturday night audience seeking more anguish than can be derived even from the current raft of George Osborne weekend specials.
The series – described as ‘a heady mix of Casualty, Judge John Deed and Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ – follows the lives of a large group of expectant mothers from early pregnancy through to the birth of their offspring around nine months later. Whilst the vast majority of the births are happy occasions, shared with viewers, the programme also follows the stories of those who have been less fortunate, often ending up involved in compensation claims and legal proceedings.
The first successful series of the programme was followed by a Christmas special featuring a healthy birth during a nativity play. To date, grounds for litigation have not been found, but lawyers are believed to still be crawling over the church hall’s health and safety policy and expect to deliver a result very soon.
‘This show has it all: human interest, tragedy, and the prospect of big money pay-outs,’ enthused critic Boyd Hilton. ‘There is tension in any delivery suite,’ he continued, ‘but to see an entire obstetrics team petrified as a narrator informs them they may be sued at any moment adds a whole new dimension to reality television.’
A BBC spokesman denied that the programme was in any way exploitative. ‘Naturally, the interface between mother-to-be and her medical care comes under the scrutiny of the TV cameras, but we feel that this gives the mother comfort in the knowledge that any error on behalf of the hospital staff will be recorded, will be nurtured and will at one stage grow up and mature to the point of being lucratively actionable. In this way, together with the legal services that we provide, the BBC can be seen to be carrying out our public services remit on at least one of the three counts.’
The programme has spawned a number of spin offs in a programming boom. BBC4’s “Midwife Crisis” sees the story from the viewpoint of the Maternity Unit, while BBC3’s ambitious “Shag and Deliver” extends the concept by following the lives of expectant couples to the point of birth right back to when their dreams were nothing more than the mischievous glint in a lawyer’s eye.
Pic by Pinxit