Saturday, March 17, 2012


Is there a better documentary series on TV than Wonderland? If there is, I'm yet to hear about it.

As explorations of that most fascinating of subjects - people and their idiosyncrasies - the hour-long films routinely encompass and elicit the broad spectrum of human emotion, each one markedly different in focus and yet all intimately and sensitely observed insights into the lives of others. Each prompts the viewer to engagement and reflection rather than encouraging ironic detachment, and the protagonists are respectfully portrayed as multi-faceted individuals rather than as mere two-dimensional caricatures paraded for our amusement (take note, Louis Theroux).

A fortnight ago, Two Jews On A Cruise saw rigidly orthodox Jews Gaby and Tikwah - the subjects of an earlier film - go on holiday. Personally speaking, I'll admit the entertainment value was heightened by Gaby's physical and (at times) attitudinal similarity to my father-in-law. But the way the strains in the pair's marriage were underlined and confronted made for superb (if occasionally uncomfortable) viewing.

And then came Granny's Moving In, which followed one couple's fraught attempts to cope with a strong-willed parent's advancing dementia by moving her into their house. Mother and child had switched conventional roles and responsibilities, with the former's desire to retain independence and teenager-esque dislike of being lectured shown coming into conflict repeatedly with the latter's concern for her safety, security and wellbeing. The programme was a sometimes humorous but always poignant reminder of the difficult negotiation most of us will be faced with at some point in our lives.

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