The British Family – Children: Half-baked Home History

February 1, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews



How many reflective documentaries are we going to have this year? With 2010 in full swing, it seems that now more than ever it’s time to look backwards Last week, The Virtual Revolution was a great look back at arguably the most important invention of the last century and before that The Story Of The Noughties provided a cultural as well as historical viewpoint on the last decade.

This time Kirsty Young is taking a look at the British family and how it’s changed over the last 50 years, but the programme doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know.

Our attitudes towards our children have shifted. Far from being seen and not heard, children now dominate our lives. In 1975 children spent an average of 25 minutes a day with their parents, in 2001 that had increased to 99 minutes.

Our obsession with our children has led to increased fears for their safety (there’s a clip of a frankly terrifying advert from the 1980s which shows a child being electrocuted).

More than that, we were informed that dangers often lurked at home – Esther Rantzen is quick to point out that with Childline, it was hard to bring to public attention the fact that the abuse of children happens without becoming overly paranoid.

The modern family is a far remove from the traditional 2.4 children family unit of the past: Divorce is more acceptable; single-parent families are more common, gay marriage and adoption are legal.

But a good documentary is more than just a load of facts flung in your face and The British Family merely spells out things that you already know: families are more different now than they ever were and children play a greater role in family life than they ever have.

If you like watching Kirsty Young nodding sagely (at one point, her nodding was so prolific, it looked as if she was insane) while she interviews families about their lives (something you’re probably already familiar with if you have any friends) and endless tracking shots of her walking down streets while spouting voice overs, then this is for you.

If you like your documentaries to actually contain some insight, it’s best to look elsewhere.