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TV review: Rhod Gilbert: Stand up to infertility, Cornwall: This fishing life, and The Investigation

12 February 2021


Rhod Gilbert: Stand up to infertility (BBC2, Sunday of last week) explored male reproductive failure

Rhod Gilbert: Stand up to infertility (BBC2, Sunday of last week) explored male reproductive failure

COULD the Lord’s Day airwaves be polluted any more offensively than by the no-holds-barred Rhod Gilbert: Stand up to infertility (BBC2, Sunday of last week), exploring male reproductive failure with all the rude and vulgar innuendo that the subject so unfortunately attracts?

Actually, of all people, we Christians should be entirely undisconcerted by such matters: are not our scriptures shot through with robust expositions of whether its key personages will father longed-for issue? You could argue that male fertility is central to the entire working out of God’s plan. Gilbert did not raise this particular aspect of his subject: my readers are welcome to borrow it for future sermons.

His concern was sparked by discovering, after years of his wife’s trying to conceive, that the difficulty lay in his contribution to the process: although adequate in quantity, its quality is seriously deficient. His difficult voyage of discovery made him aware that, although failure to conceive was a 50/50 responsibility, nearly all infertility treatment and attention was focused on women. Across the Western world, in 40 years, male fertility has dropped by 60 per cent; yet masculine embarrassment, shame, and sheer macho chauvinism mean that no one talks about it.

Using his own vocation to comedy, his mission was to turn this round, to encourage men to share responsibility with their partners, to discuss openly their fear of personal infertility, and to change the lifestyles that inhibit healthy reproduction. Time for men to join the human race, perhaps?

We would expect to find the most manly men among the subjects of Cornwall: This fishing life (BBC2, Mondays). Yet the third episode, for example, on 1 February, had no shortage of emotions and feelings expressed. The boom or bust of Padstow’s crab and lobster trade is far more than a mere business.

Centuries and generations of this demanding and unpredictable life make it central to self-identity; never before have international politics and concerns about the sustainability of stocks been so obvious, so present, and so potentially catastrophic. We hear the most healthy variety of voices and opinions, ranging from those committed to traditionally small boats and developing the immediate, high-end local market, to those who operate far larger vessels and are convinced that the future lies only with expansion.

One of crime drama’s moral problems is its focus of attention — at worst, even conferring heroic status — on the criminal. The Investigation (BBC2, Fridays) avoided this with rigour, expressing its revulsion at the abhorrent vileness of the murder of the journalist Kim Wall by never even mentioning the perpetrator’s name or showing him on screen.

No more dour exposition could be imagined: the stoical agony of Miss Wall’s parents matched by the dogged and absolute determination of the police to secure a conviction.

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