Archives for posts with tag: Paul Ready

It is a source of joy and frustration that many dramas and comedies in the UK don’t have a fixed schedule. The next series is often at the whim of the writers and actors. It is a joy because you normally avoid a deluge of your favourites returning at all the same time. But it is also a frustration as you can often be left waiting around to see if it will come back at all.

So it was with Motherland, where were left not knowing the future. But it is now finally back, and remains the bitter joy that it was before. Sighs of relief all round.

This series does see some progression. Julia is now freelancing and working from home, although no less stressed. Meanwhile, new mum Meg is on the scene, brilliantly quick witted but also hedonistic. But everything else remains constant. Amanda is still queen bee faithfully followed around by Anne, Kevin is still the weedy dad and Liz the cynical and slovenly one of the group.

It is the sharp turns of phrase that make this show stand out. Liz in particular has a brilliant way of delivering killer barbs, for example, calling Amanda’s pretentious gift shop a ‘knick-knack prison’ whilst mourning the loss of her favourite kebab shop that has gone to make way for said boutique.

What is also fascinating is that it straddles the lines between making the characters slightly dislikeable but also sympathetic. Kevin is irritating but also sweetly trying to cling on to his identity through his kids. Amanda is a snob but also battling a breakdown in her marriage. Julia is selfish and spiteful but also harried and incredibly aware of her own failings. This means that when bad things happen to them you don’t feel uncomfortable but also don’t take too much pleasure from their pain.

There are some strong points made in between all this. Not least is the constant competitiveness that parenting has become. Another is, as Liz puts it, the yummy-mummification of the high street. Both show that in the battle of the haves and have nots, it’s the mums who are having to use most of the weaponry.

I hope don’t have as long a wait as last time for another new series, or we are at least put out of our misery sooner. Parenting comedies can often be finite so we need as many series as possible before we sink into the too predictable teenage years. Hopefully, this plea will chivvy it along.

Firstly, an apology for missing a week. Real life got in the way. And by real life, I mean a Christmas Afternoon High Tea with prosecco. But I am back now, so let’s crack on.

Last year the BBC launched a number of sitcom pilots to see if any could generate enough interest to succeed as a series. Most failed to even raise an eyebrow, but one – Motherland – generated both critical and public acclaim. This perhaps isn’t surprising when you consider the calibre of people working on it. Two of the four writers are Graham Linehan and Sharon Horgan, both of whom have a pedigree in making excellent comedies.

Motherland is, as the title obviously suggests, about parenting. Anna Maxwell Martin plays Julia, who is trying to ‘have it all’ and ending up often with having nothing but stress thanks to a feckless husband. Diane Morgan is the more slatternly (and presumably unemployed) single mum Liz, Lucy Punch as queen of the ‘Tiger Mums’ Amanda and Paul Ready is stay-at-home dad Kevin.

It has to be said the strongest character is Liz, full of brutal honesty and realism with also a touch vulnerability. A particular highlight came in episode one when Julia’s entertainer for her child’s birthday party was exposed as a racist and Liz had also used and refused to pay him. When Julia queried if it was the racism, Liz responded with: “No, because he was shit! If I didn’t pay people because they were racist I would have never got my satellite dish fitted. Or my wedding catered for”.

This more down-to-earth humour balances the more manic energies brought by Julia and Kevin. The latter in particular is annoying, a mixture of weird obsessiveness with a desperation to please normally only seen in puppies. It is the fact this portrayal veers in the cartoony that is the show’s biggest weakness. Everybody else you feel is somewhat believable, regardless of their faults.

Putting Kevin aside, this is an excellent comedy. It actually makes you laugh as the strands of the episode build to a climax. There isn’t any of the absurdism of Linehan’s other sitcoms, but then, that wouldn’t work here. This is about wry observations of modern parenting and the social rules that come with it.

I hope this show achieves continued success. Female-dominated comedies often get plenty of well-meaning comments but nothing to show for it. This deserves more. At the very least, a BAFTA for Morgan, who seems to be constantly just bubbling under the surface as a breakout talent. Maybe this could be her chance to join those at comedy’s top table. She has earnt it.