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TV Review: One Day that Changed My Life (Episode 5, Series 3) – BBC One

24 September 2018
Appeared in BioNews 968

The very wording of the title of the BBC documentary series 'One Day That Changed My Life' gives any observer an idea of the tone of the programme they are about to watch. Drama and suspense seem to dominate as each episode weaves in and out of the stories of four individuals and their attempts to overcome various obstacles and achieve a certain goal. In any case the 'one day' in question is left to the final five or so minutes at the end, with the bulk of the programme actually addressing a longer period.

In episode five of series three, one of these stories is of a couple, Mark and Louise. Will they succeed in their attempts to have a baby through IVF? Their journey is shown, along with that of another Mark and his battle with cancer, the severely deaf Melissa and her attempt to become a professional dancer and David's efforts be crowned 'premier young butcher of the year'. While the programme does attempt to educate the viewer, such efforts are scattered, resulting in rather thin explanations of eminently complex issues.

The programme's premise of chronicling the tribulations of four individuals or couples immediately hamstrings any prospect of in-depth education and information – the herculean task of fitting in satisfactory analysis into ten minutes (scattered throughout its 44-minute running time) for each story makes it clear why the producers of the programme prioritised suspense over analysis. Storylines are left altogether underdeveloped: from where does David's determination and passion for butchery originate? Louise and Mark are not a young couple – did they have previous partners? And if so, how has this affected their outlook on the IVF process and their desire to expand their family?

Moreover, the tonal shifts between each character were distracting at best. Don't get me wrong, David had my backing in his bid to become the premier butcher of the year. But it seemed odd to segue from Louise and Mark's experience with IVF treatment to David's – the tone dramatically shifted and detracted from the gravity and seriousness of the issues that Louise and Mark were facing.

The programme does nevertheless provide a basic but clear explanation of the IVF process at the beginning of Louise and Mark's story which served as useful introduction to those unversed in the workings of IVF (myself included). Louise and Mark from Southampton were undergoing their second attempt at IVF conception together after around 18 months of unsuccessful attempts at natural conception.

The programme does, to its credit, successfully emphasise the sense of frustration that Louise and Mark must have been going through at the time. The deep sense of exasperation after the unsuccessful first attempt and their determination to achieve success is made very apparent throughout the programme – Louise having to inject Buserelin every day to adjust her hormone levels for example. The story would have had a far larger impact and made more compelling viewing had it not been for the fact it was crammed into a ten-minute slot.

I would have liked the producers to have been bold and introduced contextual aspects around IVF treatment: what ethical issues may surround it or what issues face those who decide to attempt to conceive through IVF. The only example resembling this from the programme was the statistic that around 50 percent of women of Louise's age (35) are successful in their efforts to conceive by using IVF.

One Day That Changed My Life will forever be restrained by its very own premise – indeed it works best when it gets to the heart of the issue, only for the subject to then be abruptly changed. The rapidity with which the subject changed during the programme was not only frustrating to view, but I also felt it detracted significantly from the impact that each story would have had on their own. Louise and Mark's story is an important one, and one that certainly deserves more than ten minutes.

If heart-warming stories about people overcoming obstacles are attractive to you, then I would certainly recommend giving the programme a go. But for a detailed exploration of the intricacies of IVF, or even a relatively in-depth examination of some of the issues surrounding it, you will have to look elsewhere.

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