Sunday, August 21, 2005

Who's the Daddy?

The new series of 'The X Factor' began last night on ITV1. It's a sure-fire ratings winner, guaranteed to pull in big audiences, and the BBC are going to need something pretty special to go up against it. So what have they chosen..? A show about expectant fathers. It's not exactly traditional Saturday night fare, but as host Davina McCall explained, "On this show there'll be no singing, we've got no dancing, no panel of judges, it's not a quiz, it's not a competition, it's not about celebrities, and there'll be no one voted out."

It's almost as if they don't want an audience.

But undeterred, 'He's Having a Baby' began with a bang (nine months ago), and arrived on BBC1 last night in direct competition with The X Factor, and describing itself as "a programme about what it takes to become a father". So a show about drunken one night stands then. Maybe it could be a hit after all.

Over the next ten weeks (which is about nine too many) we'll be following eight expectant fathers as they struggle to cope, both with becoming Dads and with being interviewed by Davina McCall on a Saturday night. The saps in question consist of:

Liam, 27, a fitness instructor who kept referring to his girlfriend and baby twins as "my three bears". Which presumably makes him Goldilocks.

Ellis, 21, a sand blaster whose real name is Simon, and whose girlfriend is 17 and called Jayde. With a 'y'. I don't think I need to say any more.

Steve, 28, a driving instructor who met his girlfriend Clare on an internet dating site. He responded to the news that Clare was pregnant, with the words "I'm going to have to build a conservatory then". So he obviously doesn't know the difference between babies and pot plants.

Ben, 29, is an estate agent. So it's a wonder he managed to get a shag at all. While Jonny, 26, is a telephone engineer from Bangor. And yes, he did.

Then there's Jason, 32, an actor who stated "my biggest fear I have about becoming a father is keeping in work", so no prizes for guessing what motivated him to apply for the show. And Shakeel, 27, a Senior Train Conductor (which suggests there's such a thing as a Junior Train Conductor - there's a minimum wage job if ever I saw one). Shakeel seems to have been chosen for his lack of personality, and the fact that he has a ridiculous beard.

Last, but not least, was Matthew, 32, an IT consultant who doesn't own a TV (but is quite happy to appear on it), and whose partner Roberta has opted for a hypnobirth. No, me neither. Matthew stated that "after labour, I'm sure we'll both be exhausted". Yes, but your wife possibly slightly more than you, Matt.

As a concession to Saturday night reality shows, the men walked onstage looking like X Factor finalists, waving to the audience, who had no idea who they were, and probably didn't care either, before being lined up on a big sofa and chatted to by Davina. Interestingly, the men were then handed over to Danny Wallace, who was taking a break from starting his own country on BBC2 in order to supervise the fathers-to-be on a series of 'Dad Challenges', which basically involved holding newborn babies and watching a video about childbirth without fainting.

The sentiment level was soon cranked up with a bit of Coldplay backing music and a few tearful shots of Liam's partner Becky trying to choose a date for inducement, and by the end of the show we'd discovered that Jonny and partner Claire have already had their baby. According to the BBC website, they've only been together for nine and a half months, so they're clearly not averse to having unprotected sex less than a fortnight into a new relationship, which is nice to know.

We were then treated to five minutes of syrupy tributes to the new arrivals, and some emotional declarations of birth weights, before Davina closed the show with the moving words "To all those expectant Dads out there, remember one thing: you're not losing a wife, you're gaining a family".

I nearly threw up.