What irked her on a daily basis was that she was at completely the wrong height to see the TV screen. Inventing The Impossible: The Big Life Fix (BBC2) is, in a way, a tad mislabelled. It doesn’t fix people’s lives. It does, however, fix details of them, in such a way that the effects are enormous. It’s a very clever TV show in that respect, combining a bit of design tech with a challenge, a human story and something to ponder on afterwards.
Although the challenges posed by last night’s missions were complex, the wishes at the root of them were the sort of thing you’d never give a thought to unless, for some reason, they weren’t being granted. Bobby wanted to be able to follow a conversation.
Pollyanna wanted to be able to stand on her tiptoes. Tobijah wanted to cook with his daughter. Unlike certain ‘life-fix’ shows, where the expert descends, dispenses some advice and we fade out to a shot of the dysfunctional family enjoying a kickabout in the park, this one didn’t pretend it was easy. Akram, the genius helping Bobby, had distilled all manner of Nasalevel technology into the speechtext software but it took a focus group of deaf people to ask the awkward questions.
If you’re staring at a screen during a conversation and you’re deaf, how will you know who is speaking and who isn’t? It was the same with the wonder-glove designed by Zoe for Tobijah, stellar engineering stymied, nearly, by voice recognition gremlins. It all worked out fine, of course, and left everyone with a happy glow but it was interesting to see how the designers carried it off.
Zoe’s response was to thank Tobijah and his wife. The shy, likeable young Akram was in tears while Bobby and wife Linda rejoiced in the new software. It underlined what Zoe said earlier in the programme. Design isn’t about designing things, it’s about changing lives. The Prosecutors (BBC2) had a similar glow of satisfaction at the end of last night. Back with Senior Crown Prosecutor Eran Cutliffe and her West Midlands team, the programme followed an investigation into modern slavery, centred on nail bars throughout the Midlands.
Key witnesses, all girls and young women from Vietnam, seemed to emerge and vanish as if magic was at work, while no test on earth could prove how old some of them really were. They all stuck rigidly to one story, too, saying they’d arrived here and been taken in by kindly compatriots, who fed and clothed them in exchange for work. It was up to Eran and co to hunt for the hints and the asides, the clues that suggested there was no element of choice.
Close to the verdict, she discreetly explained some of her background, partially sighted until a hit-and-run accident as a child rendered her blind. It seemed an admirable way to present this life detail, not a mission statement at the start, not some back story continually referred to. We saw the woman and her work long before we learnt about the past.
If it was a reason for Eran being passionate about justice, it was one among many.