TV Review: Shock-horror viewing as Bono talks about tax
Gay Byrne reeled in another big fish when he spoke to U2’s frontman. For pure emotion, though, the winner was Davina McCall’s Long Lost Family
An hour is a long interview. This one – fascinating and absorbing, with an interesting, thoroughly engaging man – was worth watching.
Don’t Call Me Crazy (BBC Three, Monday) was uncomfortable viewing. Filmed in a secure psychiatric hospital for mentally ill teenagers, it featured patients with a range of debilitating conditions, including depression and schizophrenia. Some had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act; some were there voluntarily.
They included Emma, who had obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Beth, whose anorexia was reaching dangerous levels. The goal of the unit was to cure where possible or, otherwise, to equip the children with the tools they need to deal with their difficulties out in the world.
The programme had good access to clinicians and support staff, as well as the teens, so this wasn’t a glib, reality-shock programme. And the day-to-day experience of the children’s difficulties was harrowing at times to watch, with its outbreaks of violence and self-harm.
Don’t Call Me Crazy is part of It’s a Mad World, a season on BBC Three aimed at dispelling the myths, preconceptions and taboos of mental illness. That is an undeniably good motive, but watching the documentary raised the question I always have about programmes featuring vulnerable minors. How much can these teenagers be said to have given their informed consent about the implications for the rest of their lives of such up-close-and-personal exposure? With luck they will move on from their current crises, but how, in years to come, will they feel about the filming?
Don’t Call Me Crazy was properly unemotional and unsentimental. But Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell’s Long Lost Family (UTV, Monday) goes for the heart strings – and if you’re not shedding a little tear at the end of it, even though you know you’re being expertly played every step of the way, you should check your pulse.
Back for a third series, the programme reunites people who for whatever reason – adoption features large – have been separated. This week’s episode featured Wendy O’Hagan from the Bogside, in Derry. In 1975 her mother had a relationship with an American sailor, Grant Williams, whose naval ship had docked in Northern Ireland. The sailors had been warned not to get involved with the locals – for a while it was starting to sound like a second World War saga – so his comings and goings to his girlfriend’s house were noted. As it was the height of the Troubles, and he was suspected of passing information, he was sent back to the US without warning.
They wrote to one another, but when O’Hagan was born her grandfather began to intercept Williams’s letters. Eventually O’Hagan’s mother gave up, assuming he had moved on, and she subsequently married someone else.
O’Hagan had been searching fruitlessly for her biological father all her adult life. The programme tracked him down to New Mexico. He was thrilled, and they were reunited – managed by McCall, who’s so good at this sort of thing.
It was nice to have a happy ending. Another one’s guaranteed next week. It’s that sort of programme.