TV Times - The birth of brilliance

THE television schedules have not quite settled down since the festive period, with the channels yet to show their hands for the months ahead.

This means that a few nights a week, there are genuinely times when there is nothing on, and you’re reduced to watching repeats of Friends or Only Fools and Horses.

So when something good comes along at this time, it shines like a beacon.

Television’s shining light right now is the fly-on-the-wall documentary, One Born Every Minute, shown on Channel 4 at 9pm on Monday nights.

The cameras left dormant after the end of Big Brother, have been transplanted to the maternity ward of Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton. Here, guided through each case by the resident midwives, the audience gets to watch one of the most emotional, and painful, experiences women go through.

And it provides solid gold viewing.

Unlike Big Brother, the subjects of each episode show no awareness of the cameras that loom down on them so they go about their business as normal.

There is no putting a brave face on things, nor any acting up for the audience.

Anyway, most of the women seem to be in too much pain to bother who might be looking at them.

One such suffering lady was this series’ first subject, Stephanie.

When we first met Stephanie, she said she was a bit of a whimp when it came to pain.

She wasn’t lying.

She screamed from the moment she arrived at the hospital – until about 10 minutes after her baby popped out.

Her screams were heard around the ward, with her husband Paul looking more and more uncomfortable with each passing moan.

She even kept on screaming after her epidural when she admitted she couldn’t feel anything “down there”.

The looks the midwives were giving each other throughout all this suggested they were in more pain than poor Stephanie.

Such cuts to facial expressions make the show, revealing the thoughts of everyone involved in the birth.

Her behaviour will likely have frightened thousands of women yet to go through childbirth while boosting the confidence of those who caused nowhere near as much fuss when they did.

The other featured story of this blinding episode was 18-year-old childhood sweethearts Janet and Ralph.

No offence to Ralph, but he was a bit weird and didn’t really know how to handle the situation as the already late baby inside Janet stubbornly refused to come out.

What made this story – and the episode as a whole – were the closing moments when Ralph held his baby for the first time.

A young man who had failed to show even the slightest bit of emotion throughout the episode, fell completely apart.

He sobbed uncontrollably as he looked in his son’s eyes.

Very few programmes provide an emotional punch as strong as this or showcase as much genuine drama.

One Born Every Minute stands high above the usual reality fare – and shoulder to shoulder with the best television has to offer.