Socialist Worker

Sirens: Not enough of paramedics’ real humour

by Dixie Dean, London ambulance worker
Issue No. 2257

Ambulance workers find ways to deal with the stress of the job (Pic: Channel 4)

Ambulance workers find ways to deal with the stress of the job (Pic: Channel 4)


The new comedy-drama Sirens is presented as a satirical look at working for the ambulance service.

As a paramedic, I would describe it as a missed opportunity.

The drama of the opening road traffic accident was promising. But, sadly, for me it went downhill pretty quickly from there.

Even when dealing with trauma there is room for humour—that’s how we deal with the stress of our job. Sadly this was missing.

And there are lots of situations where we see the funnier side of life.

We deal with the eccentrics, the characters, with real-life situational humour. This was also missing from Sirens.

The way the characters dealt with their stress was through sex. The whole episode seemed to be about either avoiding sex, as in the case of the ambulance technicians, or getting sex in the case of the female police officer.

We see the ambulance manager telling the crew to go to a counsellor after witnessing the horrific accident, and the crew are seen straight away.

An unrealistic touch—we usually have to wait weeks to see the counsellor!

I expected more from writer Tony Basgallop, who was behind the series Teachers.

Heart

I won’t fuss about totally unrealistic details like having an ambulance technician performing open heart massage, rather than a helicopter doctor.

There have been a number of serious reality TV programmes about ambulance work where staff are heroes dealing with traumatic emergencies.

This was an opportunity to write something both poignant and humorous—and to take a satirical look at the reality of ambulance work.

There is more to emergency ambulance work than dealing with fatal road accidents, drunken brawls and people attempting to jump off bridges.

There were many angles that he could have taken, coping with the wide variety of calls we deal with—the regular callers, the inappropriate calls.

Looking at the effects of cuts in the NHS, and the often unrealistic expectations that the public have of ambulance crews.

Series creator Brian Fillis says the series was inspired by paramedic Tom Reynolds’ book, Blood, Sweat and Tea.

But it’s difficult to believe the creators spent much time talking to ambulance staff and asking them about how they deal with their stress and how they feel about their job.

If they had, they could have tapped into some of the really funny stories many of my colleagues have related in the mess room.

This drama fell far short of that.

Sirens begins on Monday 27 June at 10pm on Channel 4


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Article information

Reviews
Tue 21 Jun 2011, 18:00 BST
Issue No. 2257
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