Parkinson’s: The Funny Side

Broadcaster: BBC1

Year: 2017parkinsons-the-funny-side

Genre: Documentary

URL: https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/92447

Review by June Adams

In 2011, comedy writer Paul Mayhew-Archer (whose work includes The Vicar of Dibley) became one of about 127,000 people in the UK diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year. At that time, he was told to expect “five good years”. Since then laughter, chocolate, medication and exercise classes run for Parkinson’s patients by the English National Ballet have helped keep his spirits up and his symptoms relatively in check. However with those five good years now passed, Paul begins to ask what the coming years may hold for him and his condition.

As you can imagine from the title, this is not a serious scientific documentary – but there are short sections that might prove useful to demonstrate different forms of intervention being used to understand more about Parkinson’s, to treat the symptoms and/or to find a potential cure. With the help of various Departments of Oxford University, Paul investigates:

  • Tests for Parkinson’s, including development of a phone app that help doctors with an early diagnosis of the disease (this clip, 1.47 mins)
  • Deep brain stimulation for controlling tremors (this clip, 3.30 mins), and
  • News of a possible cure involving stem cells (this clip, 1.54 mins).

Along the way, Paul meets other people with Parkinson’s and discovers how everyone’s experience of the disease is different; each has a unique combination of symptoms, some of which are much more troubling than others. As he summarises in closing:

A philosopher once said, I think it was Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” And Parkinson’s is like a particularly rubbish sort of box of chocolates. Every symptom, every chocolate is particularly disgusting. But some are more disgusting than others. And let’s hope, as I come to the end of my five good years, that I won’t end up with the orange cream.

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