November 27, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Kangaroo Dundee begins with the music of heroes, lovers and sunsets. Then ...

tv_digest_kangaroo-dundee_mainKangaroo Dundee begins with the music of heroes, lovers and sunsets.

Then: “Deep in the heart of central Australia lives a family like no other. This is Brolga, a man who has sacrificed everything to give orphaned kangaroos a second chance at life.”

Brolga is forty-something, six foot seven, ruggedly handsome – and bottle-feeding a baby kangaroo topless. The programme followed his daily struggle as a foster mother to baby kangaroos. So he’s a kind man on an admirable mission. Why, then, could I not stop shuddering throughout?

I shuddered when Brolga was stimulating a baby kangaroo to urinate, quickly flicking his long fingers against the youngster’s genitals. A baby kangaroo gets very stressed out if it’s not taken to the toilet,” he said stickily – and the joey pissed all over the shack floor.

Later, we met fellow foster mum Anne-Marie who plonked a young kangaroo in a baby bouncer (back trouble). She leaned in close to his muzzle. “Yes I do love you. Yes I do,” she said. “You love your mum, don’t you? You don’t kiss everybody, do you?” She let the joey’s tongue hungrily seek her own then gritted her teeth and inhaled sharply, her eyes rolled inward. I shudder, and so does she. “That’s how you got your name Lick Lick: ‘cause you’re a kissy boy.” I shudder again.

Kangaroo Dundee makes for pleasantish viewing but there’s a weird, wincing undercurrent to it. Brolga, along with the rest of this roo-adopting clan, talk about and treat the kangaroos as if they are young children and the programme highlights the fine balance between care and control. One can easily spill into the other: patient becomes gimp. Anne-Marie’s kindly “You love your mum, don’t you?” could easily become a “Love ya mum, kissy boy, or I’ll cut off ya big ears.”

Hopping from one obsession to another, Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners works a winning formula: find people who are completely incompatible and watch them get on each other’s nerves. It’s been used with eating disorders (Supersize vs Superskinny), with spouses (Wifeswap/Trading spouses), with ex and current lovers (The X Effect) – and now it’s been done with the obsessively clean and compulsively dirty.

You watch these programmes with the same interest you might watch two goldfish nibbling each other’s fins. Or two randy kangaroos fighting over a flyer.

You can almost hear the producers’ chuckle in the boardroom as they pair the neurotic germophobes with their lazy, begrimed counterparts.

We were told that “Thirty-year-old payroll administrator Glen from Watford spends 16 hours a week making his one-bedroom apartment immaculate”. He looked like someone whose farts smell of new balloons and squeak like a sales girl on helium. There were a series of shots of him repeatedly touching well-ordered kitchen utensils, straightening picture frames with a spirit level and using a tape measure to line up everything he owns. He had got the enlarged, over-clenched jaw muscles of the highly strung.

Glen was sent to clean dirty David’s disordered home. Needless to say, Glen and David didn’t get on. They bickered. OCD Glen found a small packet in non-OCD David’s kitchen. He levelled his brow. “It says bread sauce, 2008.”

“Well, it’s in a packet,” said David, and the highpoint of the episode was the self-satisfied smile that played above his double chin.

Or is the highpoint ‘germophobic Lesley’? She goes bowling and before picking up a bowling ball says, “You might as well be putting your finger up somebody’s bum hole.” But who has three bum holes? What bad luck: to look at a bowling ball and see – for want of a prettier word – an anus. Later, she picked it up anyway (using its bum holes) and hurled it at the skittles. Let’s hope she never adopts a baby kangaroo.

Sometimes in this kind of programme the two people influence each other in positive ways. Both have an epiphany – usually tearful – and they suddenly see themselves as too controlling, too greedy, too something. They change, and the postscript reports their continued success: “Mason cut cheese triangles out of his diet, lost twelve stone and is covered in loose flapping skin. He got a new job in Costco and met Brolga, a recovering kangaroo-obsessive from central Australia”. ButObsessive Compulsive Cleaners has no such satisfying closure. They bickered right to the bitter end.

Kangaroo Dundee, episode 2 was on BBC 2 on 6 December 2013. 
Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners, series 2, episode 6 was on Channel 4 on 5 December 2013.