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The Truth Behind the Television Show — NBC’s ‘Fertility Clinic Soap Opera’

In what must look like an exercise in self-parody, NBC plans to broadcast a new prime-time soap opera entitled “Inconceivable,” which is fictionally located within a fertility clinic. Honest. Here’s the scoop from NBC’s Web site: This delightful ensemble drama concerns one of the most complicated questions: to conceive or not to conceive. The doctors of the Family Options Fertility Clinic are on a noble quest to help desperate couples give birth. Except these doctors are often distracted by their personal quests involving sex, deception and secrets. Navigating through ultrasounds and super-egos, missing frozen embryos and impending malpractice suits, it’s positively clear that life inside this clinic is anything but sterile. Ah, the ‘noble quest’ that gets complicated by personal quests. Interested?
Along comes Liza Mundy of Slate to provide the rest of the story. It seems that the series was created by two homosexual men who, as Mundy explains, “themselves have families with the help of surrogates.”
She also explains that Beverly Hills, the chosen location for the fictional clinic, was a good choice. Here’s why:
“Inconceivable” is set in a fictional Beverly Hills fertility clinic, Family Options. It was a good geographical choice, given that if the show were set anywhere else, the staff might have to–for purposes of verisimilitude–occasionally decide not to go ahead with something. There is a real difference between the culture of East Coast fertility medicine, which is more hidebound in clinging, at least nominally, to the notion of “medical necessity,” and the West Coast, especially Los Angeles, where a more consumer-minded approach to patient care prevails. In the Washington, D.C., area, where I live, many clinics still will not work with gay males, justifying this on the grounds that technically IVF is a medical treatment for infertile people. Many of these same clinics, however, will provide sperm donation services for lesbians, partnered or single, and other unmarried women whose infertility amounts to “no male partner.” In Los Angeles–by way of contrast–there are doctors who specialize in gay couples. In L.A., land of 48-year-old actresses-turned-first-time-mothers, the trade in donor eggs is so active and so normalized that the college-age daughter of a friend of mine, sitting at a cafe in Santa Monica, was approached by an unknown couple who asked if she would be their donor. Surrogacy laws are friendly in California. Fertility treatment is cheaper in California. In Los Angeles–I think this is fair to say–doctors may debate ethics, but chances are the end of the debate will be: Yes. Which means that in the case of Family Options, almost every patient can be an unfolding storyline.
Stay tuned, as they say. Is a culture known by its soap operas? We must surely admit that much is revealed by knowing what fascinates a culture and holds its attention. This new series also tells us something about the pace of social and moral change in contemporary America. Inconceivable would have been truly inconceivable just a few years ago.