The Real Rain Man

rainman

The Real Rain Man

Fifty-four-year-old Kim Peek is arguably the world's most famous savant and the inspiration behind the Oscar-winning film, Rain Man. He was diagnosed as mentally retarded at birth by a neurologist who spared him five minutes on his way to a golf game, and his parents were advised to place him in an institution. But his father, Fran, refused to give up on him and under his care Kim has developed a memory that, without equal, has made him a household name in the USA.

Described as "a living Google", Kim is a confounding mix of disability and brilliance that has baffled neurosurgeons. Most savants have only one dominating interest, but Kim seems to soak up everything: from sport to politics and even the minutiae of the British monarchy. But his gifts come at a price. Now nearly 80, Fran still looks after his son who needs help with all aspects of everyday life.

They have lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, since Kim was born. Its library is his favourite place in the world and he spends many hours there devouring books two pages at a time, often finishing as many as eight in a day. The programme follows Kim and Fran as they leave their home town in an effort to find out everything they can about Kim's remarkable brain while they are still together.

We follow father and son as they travel down the coast to San Francisco, where some of the world's foremost neuroscientists are waiting to meet him. They soon establish that Kim is a mega savant: his memory is not just deep, it's wide. Perhaps predictably, his intelligence test results are widely erratic as standardised tests do not really encompass his unique abilities. But vastly more interesting are the results of his brain scan. Using the latest technology, doctors at the city's university examine Kim's brain in detail and discover that he is missing the connection between its left and right side. The way it has rewired itself to compensate may account for his extraordinary talents.

Barry Morrow, the creator of Rain Man, met Kim in 1984 and is still a close friend of the family. "I was absolutely flabbergasted that such a human being existed", he says. "I could not get this man out of my mind". Rain Man didn't just win awards; it changed Kim's life forever. Previously unable to make eye contact with anyone, the film put him in the public spotlight. He now spends much of his life appearing in front of audiences across America with his father, where he astounds people with his incredible range of knowledge and his ability to calculate the day of the week of any given date. The one thing he finds difficult is abstract maths.

Kim now enjoys meeting people and loves showing off what he can do. One of his favourite tricks is to ask someone for their date of birth, and then reel off the days of the week on which they were born, have their birthday this year, and will turn 65 and retire. At the end of the programme, he and Fran travel to England to demonstrate his skills to an audience of students at Oxford University. It is their first ever trip abroad, and Kim wows the crowd with his knowledge and personality. "I wasn't supposed to make it past 14," he says. "And here I am, at 54, a celebrity."

Watch the promo: high verson or low version.

Mondays at 9.00pm