Sunday 17 December 2017

RTE's You Should See A Doctor: Wobbling spots, mysterious blisters and an elderly man prone to Lucozade binges

You Should Really See A Doctor, Episode One RTE1

Dr Pixie McKenna and Dr Phil Kieran.
Dr Pixie McKenna and Dr Phil Kieran.

Dr Pixie McKenna will be familiar to viewers of Channel 4's Embarrassing Bodies, where she plays second banana to that great hooting orangutan of TV medicine, Christian Jessen.

Being Irish, it was only a matter of time before the Cambridge, UK-based physician was offered a homegrown franchise and here she was, folding her arms and pursing her lips, as she met individuals who suspected they might be unwell but had put off seeking professional help – or, scarier yet, had self-diagnosed on the internet.

Your heart sank a little as the walking wounded trooped into Dr Pixie's consultation prefab (which had materialized, Tardis-like, in the center of the Taste of Cavan exhibition hall). Illness is icky even at one remove and we could have done without the chap with a vast spot wobbling in the middle of his forehead or a man with mysterious skin blisters sticking his hands into the fridge in search of relief. By the ad-break, I'd gingerly set down my cocoa and returned my pre-bedtime digestives to the tin.

Fortunately, Dr McKenna was perfect television doctor material, with an understated bedside manner and the ability to maintain a straight face no matter what (as she memorably demonstrated on a live C4 broadcast when she somehow kept a stony demeanour as a punter complained of a "funny shaped" penis).

Accompanying her was Dr Phil Kieran, a Cork GP sporting a hipster beard and the swagger of someone who runs marathons and fearlessly pairs pastel T-shirts with skinny jeans. But it was all a bit downsized compared to Embarrassed Bodies, with both Channel 4's budget, and frankly its verve and imagination, conspicuously lacking.

There was also confusion over the series's core message. The most powerful story was that of a mother of two who had developed red blotches on her skin and, going online, concluded she had lupus, a potentially fatal autoimmune condition. This indeed proved the case – which seemed to undermine the thesis that turning to the internet for medical advice was a short-cut to hypochondria. Here, Google's worst case scenario had proved chillingly accurate.

Still, amid the grossness and tonal uncertainty, You Should See A Doctor squeezed in the (very occasional) chuckle, such as when an elderly man admitted that he was prone to "Lucozade binges". Otherwise, this was a singularly off-putting half hour of television of interest only to those horribly fascinated with the human body and the multitude of ways it can leave us down.

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