Last night’s TV – The Great Sperm Race


PARENTAL WARNING: This review contains references to sexual matters, giant genitals and puns of a very obvious and probably not funny nature, so reader discretion is advised..

Has there ever been a more ridiculous programme on in a peak time slot than The Great Sperm Race?

Using various large scale media to convey the difficulty sperm encounters on the great fertilisation trail, this show took a staggering hour and ten minutes to show us how a baby gets made… newsflash Channel 4 – we already know.

We didn’t need hundreds of extras dressed as sperm, nor London’s Gherkin building substituting as a giant penis, nor yet a valley in the Canadian Rockies playing the part of a giant vagina.

Well speak for yourself Channel 4; over forty I may be but we’re not even into wizard’s sleeve territory yet, never mind valley-like comparisons.

And I’ve often wondered – just as an aside – what do these people who play roles such as giant sperm put on their CV? Do they mention it in job interviews? “Oh yes, that’s right, I played a spermatozoa; it challenged me on many levels, most especially getting into the ludicrously tight white suit…”

I’ve often wondered the same of the poor schlep who played the role of a sanitary towel in an ad a while back, and the person who plays the giant gherkin in the ad for Subway… I really would love to see their CVs…

However, I digress; back to last night’s The Great Sperm race when we heard, and saw, Gulliver-esque styly, how we’re all made. According to Channel 4’s blurb for the show, those poor sperm face terrible difficulties in making it to the egg, and sadly, many die along the way. It’s like a trek up Everest without the cold and without huskies… one hopes anyway.

Here’s what Channel 4 had to say of their production…

“It’s the most extreme race on earth – a contest with 250 million competitors, only one winner and relentless obstacles thrown in for good measure.

“With the microscopic world of sperm and egg accurately scaled up by 34,000 times, we see the human-sized heroes negotiate some of the world’s most striking landscapes when the epic proportions of the vagina become the Canadian Rockies and the buildings on London’s South Bank symbolise the intricacies of the cervix.

“With the female body designed to repel and destroy invaders, from acidic vaginal walls to impassable cervical crypts, the sperm face unremitting obstacles.

‘The battle that sperm have in order to find and fertilise an egg is just immense,’ explains Dr Allan Pacey. ‘Everything is working against sperm and they’re not really given a helping hand by the female reproductive tract.’

Well Dr Pacey, try telling my reproductive system that; I only needed to drink from the same cup as my husband and I was pregnant.

Anyway, we viewers were asked to think of it all from the viewpoint of the sperm, bravely battling eggwards, but try as I might, I couldn’t put myself in their shoes, not that they wear shoes, but you know what I mean. I found it impossible to summon up any sympathy for their plight and it seemed to me to be another case of men bemoaning their lot.

Say for example you were Mrs Sperm and your husband arrived home after a long day at the fertilisation office, I imagine he might say, “You would not believe the day I’ve had. Is the kettle on by the way and what’s for dinner? Oh and before I forget, there’s about 249 million of my mates coming over later, just thought I’d mention it. But yeah, you’ve no clue honestly… it’s just been uphill all the way. You reckon it’s tough being at home with kids, well, you should try my job…” and on it would doubtless prattle, and yes, that ‘coming’ pun was intentional.

So with lots of melodramatic incidental music and giant replicas of genitals and sperm, we heard how “The vagina is an awesome and awe-inspiring place” the pursuit of which is in fact – from a sperm’s point of view – the raison d’etre of nightclubs surely?

And I really don’t know why they bothered putting the show on after the 9pm watershed, because apart from the liberal and all to oft use of words which pertain to genitals, it could well have been a suitable sex education show for primary schools, and that was probably its biggest failing actually. It treated us viewers like we’re morons.

Yes I realise there was a certain tongue-in-cheek element but nonetheless, it was patronising in the extreme of the makers to assume that we’re all so thick, we need giant replicas of everything in order to relate to what it all means.

Well, again, newsflash Channel 4… we don’t need things to be made big in order to understand them. In the case of sperm, I realise that things becoming big play a large part in their day-to-day lives, but even still, we viewers are capable of understanding scientific facts without you making them Jolly Green Giant sized thanks.

That said, I can’t say I’m sorry I watched it because it was funny; partially intentionally but the main amusement for me came from looking from the screen to my husband – who was innocuously and innocently sitting there reading – and making comparisons… I love you dear, but the Gherkin you’re not…

Oh and before I forget, Channel 4 have an interactive online game you can play to experience for yourself life from the perspective of a sperm… so shoot on over there to play it. Sorry… *is ashamed of that pun but couldn’t resist*

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.