Review: Our Family and Autism, a heartfelt documentary from Paddy McGuinness and family, shows how the BBC is getting men to open up

Paddy and Christine McGuinness: Our Family and Autism (BBC1, Weds, 9pm) was the latest in a recent rash of BBC documentaries in which a celebrity opens up about a personal issue that usually leaves both them, and the viewer, in tears.

Friday, 3rd December 2021, 5:30 pm

We’ve had Bake-Off winner Nadiya Hussein on anxiety, Rio Ferdinand on grief and Freddie Flintoff on bulimia, among others, so you might think ‘celeb battles personal issue in bid to raise awareness’ doc would leave you with compassion fatigue, but it’s far from the case.

In fact, as you watch Paddy and wife Christine chart their struggles coming to terms with the autism diagnosis for all three of their children, you realise this is exactly what the BBC should be doing.

The Top Gear presenter – normally seen as a sort of laddish, larkabout sort – reveals he struggled with depression as he tried to deny what the diagnosis could mean for his family.

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Paddy McGuinness with his daughter in the revealing BBC documentary Paddy and Christine McGuinness: Our Family and Autism

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And in line with the BBC’s mission to ‘inform, educate and entertain’, this doc, and the others like it, in from the public – and particularly men – that talking can do good, is a release, and all in an accessible way. As Paddy says: “I just wish I hadn’t spent so much time trapped by the fear of it all.”

Compassion fatigue? Not a chance.

I cannot recommend Winter Walks (BBC4, Mon-Thurs, 7.30pm) and its sister show Walking With... (iPlayer, streaming now) highly enough.

The premise doesn’t sound that promising – a well-known name wanders around a beautiful landscape talking to themselves.

Yet with all that crowds around us – Covid, climate change, the constant chatter of online life – it’s rare you can get a chance to switch off and be at peace, and these shows offer a half-hour of tranquillity that really can’t be beaten.