A new BBC comedy already has everyone talking thanks to its realistic ‘winging it’ view of parenting. It has must-watch written all over it, says Jennifer McShane
Only one episode in – the pilot that aired in 2016, now on BBCiPlayer – and Motherland has me hooked. I was surprised at its general greatness until I clocked that the award-winning team behind it are rather brilliant themselves: Sharon Horgan (IMAGE favourite and one half of Catastrophe); Graham Linehan (one half of Father Ted), writer and actor Helen Linehan and stand-up comedian Holly Walsh. What have they brought to the table in a series that revolves around the realities of middle-class motherhood? Quite a lot, actually.
When is the last time you can recall seeing a genuine depiction of motherhood on screen? And by that, I mean a film or series that doesn’t sideline mothers into stereotypes: There are those that have cracked under pressure; tragic figures gone a little bit crazy as a result. They nag and grumble. And the other camp: those who, depressingly, seem to “have it all” but are made to be complete ballbreakers. Both depictions are utterly depressing. This is what makes Motherland so refreshing. It just represents people – regular people – getting trapped in head-melting situations while trying to raise kids. Naturally, it makes for hilarious watching, but for some parents, the tears of mirth could turn very quickly as they see themselves reflected on screen.
Because who hasn’t been where mother Julia (the endlessly likeable Anna Maxwell Martin), is, stressed and having a mini-breakdown as she’s offered to host a child’s birthday party – a celebration which is to put all other past kids’ parties to shame, naturally – that she is in no way ready for? She just wanted a regular Pizza Express day out, but in a bid to impress the Alpha-Mums (because yes, they exist) she’s had to go all out. She assures, plans, then panics and implores her sweary-yet-straight-talking mum-friend, Liz to help and cries as she considers Liz’s suggestion: “You buy four caterpillar cakes and put them all together into a human centipede cake… Then tell them you’ve hidden a quid somewhere and relax. Then for the grand finale: play ‘Gangnam Style’ and give them undiluted squash. They’ll go f***ing mental.”
The kids aren’t the focus; the creators have allowed the female characters time to breathe, focusing on the gaps; the “in-between times” you get as a parent. And it completely works. You’re going to love it.
Motherland airs tonight, Tuesday at 10 PM on BBC2