Friday, February 17, 2012

A Dad is Born - The BBC's Take on Fatherhood

Last night BBC2 treated its viewers to something unusual - a look at becoming a parent from the Dad's perspective.  Obviously, with just a couple of months to go until I join the parent club, I made sure I was settled into the sofa with a mug of tea.  I was expecting a heart warming hour of modern dads-to-be sharing the run up to the birth of their child.

What I actually got wasn't too far from that; Jamie, a recruitment consultant from London, was first on the screen.  Like most dads he's been seeking out and digesting all the information he can on what to expect, potential problems, necessary purchases.  His biggest worry is that he won't bond with the baby in the early days.  I can relate to Jamie; he worries himself into sleepless nights when the baby is late, wonders when he will actually start to feel like a dad, is very obviously a caring husband and dad who wants to do right.  He's also clearly completely terrified.  Yes, Jamie, you were pretty much what I was expecting.

Next up was Victor, immigrant from Hungary and worker of long hours driving a mini-cab in London.  Victor's dad wasn't there for him when he grew up, except to administer beatings.  Victor is endearing, but not quite the "new man" (is that even a thing any more?) that Jamie appears to be.  With statements like "I can't take a woman seriously if she doesn't cook" and his description of how he used to view women (synopsis: too many women, too little time) Victor was clearly not out to get the female viewership onside.  Still, he says he's changed, and there's a good display of teary blubbing to accompany the birth of his daughter, followed by a palpable sense that, though he's not sure what he can do to help with the baby, he really wants to.  Unlike Jamie, by the end of the programme Victor is looking and sounding confident, he considers himself a dad and has a mission to be a better example than his own.

Father number three is Greg.  Greg is a motivational speaker, a multi-millionaire who teaches other people how to make money.  Greg has a Lamborghini Murcielago with the number plate PR05PER.  Greg also has a Range Rover (his baby car) in which he spends equal time looking at the road and the screen of his laptop, which he uses to inform the viewer of how much money he's making.  Greg is in the middle of a divorce from his wife (and mother of his three year old son) and is expecting the birth of his second child by his current girlfriend.  Greg is utterly detestable in pretty much every way, and therefore compelling.  I think Kira Phillips, the film maker, even tried to make him look like less of a tool.  But by doing things like directing the camera crew on where best to shoot from and bemoaning the loss of money from being present at the birth (£3.5 million, which I'm sure even the staunchest lefty would regret not having) he does absolutely nothing throughout the whole programme to make me think he is anything but a completely vile individual.  At least he seemed to like the baby, though I'm sure he won't see much of him anyway.

It was an entertaining enough hour, and if I can say I'm as thoughtful and caring as either Jamie or Victor once my wife and I have our own little one I'll be happy.  Thankfully there's absolutely zero chance of me being like Greg, I simply couldn't afford to be.

If you missed it, you can watch it on BBC iPlayer here

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