Saved By A Stranger
Gardening With Carol Klein
Telly loves tears. A gush of emotion when families are reunited, sobbing as a beloved heirloom is restored, a choked throat and glistening eyes.
It’s what Jay Blades, presenter of The Repair Shop, where every renovation brings the tears welling up, refers to as ‘the money shot’.
But tears have to be handled with respect. When people are goaded into displays of raw feeling — the stock-in-trade of Big Brother and Love Island — viewers feel used and cheapened themselves.
Journalist Anita Rani achieves a masterful blend of serious reportage and deep emotion, in Saved By A Stranger (BBC2).
Devoting a full hour to each story would have been better — there was certainly enough material in both the opening investigations. Karl is pictured above with journalist Anita Rani
Focusing on major events in international news, she unearths powerful human stories and makes us see turning points in recent history through their eyes. Then she brings together people whose lives crossed at those crucial moments, and lets the tears flow.
Yet because two unrelated case histories are shoehorned into each episode, it feels somewhat manipulated. Its beginnings, rooted in formats such as Long Lost Family, poke through.
Devoting a full hour to each story would have been better — there was certainly enough material in both the opening investigations.
The most dramatic, partly because the carnage of the Yugoslav civil war has been too quickly forgotten, centred on a Muslim family who barely escaped the siege of Sarajevo in 1992.
Four-year-old Emina, whose baby sister Edina had Down’s syndrome, and their mother Jasminka, were ushered onto a bus out of the city. Despite bomb attacks, snipers and roadblocks, they managed to reach safety. Their saviour was a brave paediatrician at the city’s hospital, Dr Natasa Savic.
She convinced the authorities that the family had to be allowed to leave the city, if Edina was to live.
Today, the family live in Birmingham, where Emina is an NHS psychologist. The flood of emotion when they met Dr Savic for the first time since she saved their lives was overwhelming.
Neither was completely convinced they were being reunited with the person they remembered from the disaster. There was no flash of recognition — though as Karl said, it was pitch black, and the tunnel was filled with smoke, screams and rising panic
They also met a former Gurkha officer, Jeremy Brade, who was a peacekeeper in Sarajevo.
‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat,’ he said — summing up why this conflict, the result of nationalist divisions, should never be forgotten.
The reunion between Karl and Susan, two survivors of the 7/7 London Underground terrorist attack in 2005, was less intense. They were in the same Tube carriage and in the aftermath of the bombing Karl had held a woman’s hand and Susan recalled holding a man’s hand.
But neither was completely convinced they were being reunited with the person they remembered from the disaster. There was no flash of recognition — though as Karl said, it was pitch black, and the tunnel was filled with smoke, screams and rising panic.
Karl’s struggle with guilt at surviving the bombing was truly painful to witness. Often, he could hardly speak. I hope the BBC, having probed these wounds that have never healed, will offer him more support, and not leave him to cope alone.
If you needed something more soothing, Gardening With Carol Klein (C5) was the ticket. This old-fashioned series offers lessons for beginners and veterans alike, with nothing trendy or woke about it — the way Gardeners’ World used to be, many years ago.
Carol showed us how to plant potatoes, thin out snowdrops and cross-pollinate hellebores. She chased pheasants away from her primroses and set a salad tray growing on the kitchen windowsill.
There were plenty of cutaways to grazing deer and warbling robins. All the while, her old terrier Fi was snoozing on the edge of shot. It’s good to know there are some havens left.
Memory loss of the night: Faced with an entrepreneur called Rick, peddling toys for guinea pigs on Dragons’ Den (BBC1), tycoon Peter Jones said he couldn’t remember ever owning one as a pet.
‘You’ve had two, according to your website,’ retorted Rick. I’m sure Peter loved them really.