The popular reality show, ‘Sue the Midwife’, returns to BBC schedules this weekend promising to deliver bundles of joy and even more anguish than can be crammed into a 60 minute show without a single mention of George Osbourne.
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 nine months later. Whilst the vast majority of the births are happy occasions, shared with viewers, the programme follows the fortunes of those who have been less fortunate, often ending up in compensation clams 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 be crawling over the church hall’s health and safety policy and expect to deliver a result very soon.
TV reviews have been positive. ‘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 that 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. In this way, together with the legal services that we provide, the BBC can be seen to be carrying out our public services remit.’
The programme has given birth to a number of spin offs in a programming boom. BBC4’s “Midwife Crisis” sees the story from the viewpoint of the Maternity Unit, whilst BBC3’s ambitious “Shag and Deliver” extends the concept by following the lives of couples from very first date.