I Swear The BBC Is Obsessed With Tourettes. But Why?

September 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

TOURETTES – LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU: Monday 10th September, 9pm, BBC3

Reggie Yates spent most of his spring telling us that “it’s all about the voice” and he’ll be doing exactly the same thing this autumn – just for very different reasons. Yes it’s Tourettes season again on BBC3 and the Radio 1 DJ is the latest personality to explore this neurological condition, which has a heartbreaking impact on those who suffer from it.

Following on from last year’s I Swear I Can’t Help It and I Swear I Can Sing* comes Let Me Entertain You, a new three-part series in which Yates will scour the land looking for talented musicians who also have Tourettes, in the hope of creating a very special band.

As with the last couple of programmes, the subjects are utterly spellbinding. After appearing in last December’s ISICS, talented singer Ruth Ojadi is now a BBC-doc veteran, yet she is as likeable and lucid as ever. Listening to her tell Reggie how it feels like “strangers are uniting against her in hostility” when her tics emerge in public is tangibly evocative and offers viewers a true insight into the condition.

Greg is also a pretty inspirational character and you can’t help but admire the way he’s partially overcome Tourettes through skating. Watching the home videos of him as a child are also truly affecting, but every youngster in this new show has a heartfelt backstory.

But there are countless illnesses to choose from, so why have the Beeb returned to Tourettes so often over the last year or so?

Well we have a few theories. Firstly, as a condition, it has a genuine access point for non-sufferers. We’ve all done embarrassing stuff in public, so we can appreciate (if not understand) how difficult it must be to involuntarily shout ‘Chlamydia!’ at people as they wander down the street. Technically this is a social disease and that makes for much better TV than someone sitting in a hospital attached to a drip.

Secondly, it provides a wide spectrum of emotion. The people featured in these programmes have often found methods of coping with their condition, so while we sympathise, we’re also able to admire their strength and courage. While we’re moaning about the weather and the fact that we have a council tax bill to pay, they’re staying positive despite a socially debilitating neurological illness.

It’s an uplifting message that and one that’s more definable than many other conditions.

But thirdly and arguably most importantly, is the mystery factor to Tourettes. Scientists still don’t have a clue as to what is at the root of the neurological condition, so it provokes genuine puzzlement.

Either way, it makes for genuinely inspirational and informative television..

*Despite public conceptions, a relatively small percentage of Tourettes sufferers actually swear, so the BBC are technically pushing a stereotype here. It IS a great title though, so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt..

matty says:

Im 39 and have tourettes. I dont like the way the presenter assumes that people with tourettes are disabled or cant do anything that non-touretters do. Tourettes is neurological (brain chemical imbalance). Im an emergency nurse and can do everything that other nurses do. I dont want to be felt sorry for or singled out or treated differently.

alan says:

dgm i assure you the program was not a spoof, i know personally half the people on the show including ruth. This show gave a much more honest picture of the participants not focusing quite as much on the severe tics as much as past shows. Likewise Reggie yates was not playing for the cameras but just being honest over how it made him feel. As someone with severe tourettes, which only developed a year ago i see and understand both sides. This show is as much for showing the general public how tourettes affects us as it is for showing people with tourettes how our friends may feel when with us.

dgm says:

If this show was a spoof, how would you know? What makes the programme so unbearable is the po faced & banal Reggie Yates commentary…”having someone give my the finger every few seconds was not something I’m used to”, “if someone came into the room now, they would never know she had Tourettes”. It is the same mind bogglingly crass exercise in tedious exploitation that we’re used to from BBC3…if it’s not Tourettes, it’s dwarfism, Treacher Collins, facial disfigurement or OCD.

TV is so devoid of any sense of appropriateness today, that you can simultaneously believe nothing & everything.

susan says:

I hope the BBC makes even more of these programs, to counter the negative image of Tourettes pushed in movies. It might stop the stares and people can recognise it when they see it.