146. Vets

Tapehead no 146

Every week, knee-deep in Kleenex, eyes swollen with sobbing, Tapehead attempts to sit through Vets in Practice.

This week, out of his sheer sense of duty to you, he has finally managed it, and what a week it is – with only two or three fatalities. Sadly, in a week when we have all suffered and sobbed enough, one of the deaths we have to deal with is that of Arnie, Arnie the Hamster. (We’re giving away the conclusion of Arnie’s tale – or tail – it’s true, but it helps to talk about these things.)

It happens as Joe the vet picks Arnie up and tells the child who’s brought him in that he’s just going to give Arnie a little injection to help clear up the problem he’s got, before suddenly jabbing the needle in. Little Arnie’s body freezes; his legs tremble, giving what he vet describes as “a few little breaths”, before he croaks.

The shock of the needle was too much for him, as indeed it can be. The vet puts him back in the shoebox he came in, puts the lid back on and breezily bids the child: “Bye-bye then.”

Tapehead was, by now reeling. (Arnie was, in many ways, the hamster Tapehead never had.)

The vet (the hamster-killer), we are told, is a descendant of Charles Darwin. Joe reveals he too wants to leave his mark, to achieve something more than merely bring a vet. Rather than advance the science of veterinarianism, so far what he has invented is a grass-board, a kind of non-functioning version of the snowboard. Boy, Joe, Darwin would really be impressed, you hamster -murdering bastard !

By the time Tapehead had stopped weeping (whimpering is probably a better word), the programme had moved on to Useless – that’s Useless the rabbit. Useless (not exactly a confidence-boosting choice of name for a pet, but still) is at the vet’s to be castrated – and thereby become even more useless.

Watching Useless under anaesthetic, sucking on his little rabbit gas-mask, tipped Tapehead over the brink again. Luckily, Useless pulls through and is soon back to “his favourite old trick” – running around with a flowerpot on his head. (Nutter !)

There are more tears when Harvey the cat has the malignant tumours in his ears looked at. The solution ? “Lop the ends off.”

The vet says she’s tried to keep them “ear-shaped” (as opposed to star-shaped or triangular ?) But admits she is disappointed with the results – two uneven craters, with the ears gone.

The programme jumps around form vets in Cornwall and Nottingham (“I haven’t seen a cow for months”), to a vet in Botswana, which was a result (not to say a holiday) for all concerned. 

Vet Mike Sandiford says one of his ambitions in Africa is “to work with ostriches”, which makes a change from working with starving children or the homeless. 

His ambition is fulfilled when we see him “having a go at worming”, holding an ostrich’s mouth open, – which, to Tapehead’s mind, is surely the wrong end.

Tapehead was touched to see that at the vet’s, receptionists call the animals’ names out rather than the owners’ (“Snowy Spencer, please”.) 

We learn that vets (especially blonde vets) can’t cook, that sheep are capable of “looking pale”, and that cats about to be taken to the vets do not understand the words, “don’t be silly” or “you are naughty, aren’t you ?”

After so much emotional upheaval, the end of Tuesday’s show promises little light relief for Friday.

“Vet Emma Milne is faced with having to shoot an animal, and Hannah meets a dog who has wolfed down a cake mix and whose owner is worried might explode,”

Sniffer dogs are always a bad sign in Casualty and, sure enough, the new series is off with showy, but rather boring feature-length opener. After the new (drug-induced) credits, a baby is born – another recipe for disaster.

The old buffer who pulls the dagger-shaped shard of glass out of his missus has certainly never watched Casualty. Neither has the bloke who deals his fate by insisting: “No, no, look after him first.”

No half measures for the new hospital manager, who has already closed a ward down – and is played by Hannibal Lector.

Former Casualty doctor Julian (played by ABC’s Martin Fry) can hardly bring himself to appear in Dangerfield, it’s become so bad. (So thin it makes Heartbeat look like Heat.) 

His charmless new girlfriend from CID has the most horrible voice on television.

As for the dialogue…Well, you never heard lines like “that’s where you’re wrong, chummy-bum” when they arrest the suspects on Homicide.


Vets In Practice: Tue & Fri, 8pm, BBC1

Casualty: Sat, 8.10pm, BBC1

Dangerfield: Fri, 9.30pm, BBC1