19 March 2012
ByAppeared in BioNews 649
BBC1, Wednesday 14 March 2012
This episode of Waterloo Road tries to cover two areas of interest for BioNews; first known donation agreements, and second genetic testing. I must, from the outset of this review, highlight the word 'tries'; unfortunately no such warning was given to the viewers before the show.
For those of you who don't watch Waterloo Road (I know, shocking), it's set in a comprehensive school in Rochdale in the North West of England featuring troubled teens and even more disturbed teachers.
Matt Wilding, the gay drama teacher, has agreed to be a donor for his long-term single friend, Rosie. This ongoing storyline reached its conclusion with the birth of baby Martha last week. But just when you think Matt has got through his anxieties about fatherhood, the seemingly impossible happens - Rosie falls in love with her handsome doctor, Alex. Dr Alex has been offered a consultant job in Bristol, and even though Rosie has barely known him five minutes, she is planning to move with him and take Martha.
Now you may be expecting that this emotionally charged situation could only be resolved through lengthy and complex court proceedings, but no - this is Waterloo Road after all. After a massive cry in the art room, Matt and Rosie come to an agreement, and suddenly Dr Alex is not taking the job. It seems like everything has worked out in the end?
It is at this point that I realise how much I detest this show. Not because I love misery, but because it is so unrealistic. Both Matt and Rosie went into the arrangement for different reasons and there was no discussion about each other's parenting roles. The biggest criticism I have is that the producers of Waterloo Road over-simplified a very difficult issue, for the sole purpose of fitting it into an hour long episode.
The second storyline of interest is that pupil Zack does not believe PE teacher Jez is his biological father. Zack's suspicions are raised because he has ginger hair and is not good at sport. He hatches a daring plan to carry out a DNA test, by taking a hair from Jez's comb and selling his laptop to pay for the test. The plan backfires when the lab calls Jez to confirm that he had given his consent. Surprisingly the results are ready by the end of the same school day, somehow taking less time to analyse the DNA then it did to repair the school's kitchen! The results, which are phoned through, confirm Jez is the father - of course.
While I accept it is good to air these issues in a public forum, I cannot help but worry that the slapdash nature of their coverage does more harm than good when educating the public at large. These are huge issues that were fitted into an already packed episode full of fire safety, mental health, dyslexia and the usual 'will they, won't they' relationships. It is therefore not surprising that the issues were looked at so superficially. One has to question the point of their inclusion at all. I am of the opinion that the best way to get such issues understood by the public is via the popular media. But let Waterloo Road's shoddy example serve as a warning for bad TV dramas - such issues should be addressed in depth and with sensitivity.