Mum | TV preview by Steve Bennett


Note: This review is from 2016

TV preview by Steve Bennett

Mum, the new sitcom from Him & Her writer Stefan Golaszewski, is a quietly lovely piece of work: funny, poignant and sharply observed – and with an opening episode that’s sure to intrigue about what happens next.

It revolves around the newly widowed Cathy, with the opener set as friends and family gather at her suburban home for David’s funeral. Though it’s a big occasion, the comedy here emerges from the apparently mundane. It wouldn't be out of place to mention Mum in the same breath as Abigail's Party.

The Mike Leigh parallels are further evoked with the casting of Lesley Manville in the lead role. No stranger to his naturalistic work, she here portrays a woman concealing a nest of emotional vulnerabilities behind a calm, middle-class facade. She’s an interesting and believable character at the centre of a sitcom full of strong female roles.

Her lot is to be patient around the full gamut of insensitive behaviour going on around her. Everyone knows the awkwardness of knowing the right thing to say at a funeral, but Golaszewski heaps all sorts of inappropriate behaviour into the mix.

There’s her son’s girlfriend Kelly (Lisa McGrillis), in some ways a stereotypical dumb blonde, but her social clumsiness yields some great lines, delivered from naivety, not malice. It’s the same naivety that means she’s wearing a tight scarlet dress – but no knickers – to this sombre event.

Then there’s the brutally snobby Pauline (Dorothy Atkinson), the bitch queen of the passive-aggressive putdown, sneering at her sister-in-law’s unrefined taste; and the crotchety parents-in-law, obsessing about irrelevancies such as the flavour of crisps at the wake, enough to drive anyone to distraction.

It’s certainly all enough to send Pauline off for a nerve-calming cigarette, and eventually, in an emotive scene, she unloads a heap of insecurities on best friend Michael (Peter Mullan), who seems to be a love interest waiting to happen. But we’ll have to wait and see: this episode is called January, and the rest of the six-part series unfolds over a full year. 

• Mum starts on BBC Two at 10pm tonight

Review date: 13 May 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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