TV Review: Mum, BBC2

One of BBC3’s epic fails was axing the relationship sitcom Him & Her. Now at least BBC2 has gone some way towards making amends by commissioning writer Stefan Golaszewski to pen a new comedy, Mum. It’s in the same chatty, conversational vein but much more mature. Imagine Him & Her 30 years on with ‘Him’ dead and this could be the result.

Lesley Manville plays Cathy, an ordinary suburban housewife who has recently been widowed. In the first episode, simply entitled January (although actually the weather seems too good and bright for mid-winter) we see her preparing for her husband David’s funeral, which is a good way of introducing us to her family as they drop in for cake.

It is easy to see why Manville, who is not known for sitcoms, took the role. There are strong elements of Mike Leigh’s eye for mundane manners here and Manville is a Leigh regular. If you enjoyed Julia Davis’ Leigh-ish Camping Mum is like a more mellow version. Less grotesque, more realistic. Cathy seems calm on the surface but troubled beneath. When she isn’t chainsmoking in the loo she is running around trying to find the glasses that are on her forehead.

Golaszewski is partial to a whiff of the grotesque himself though. In Him & Her there was the monstrous racist, selfish Laura. In Mum there is Kelly (Lisa McGrillis) who is the girlfriend of Cathy’s son Jason (Sam Swainsbury). Kelly clearly means well but lacks an edit button. Everything she says is as inappropriate as her red mini-dress – “he took so long to die”, “sorry to hear about your dead friend.” 

Elsewhere there are the usual bickering, snobby in-laws, while another actor not known for comedy, Peter Mullan (pictured with Manville), plays Michael, the friend who is an oasis of calm and sanity (and looks like he may get a romantic storyline later in the run). Mum is one of those sitcoms that slips out without much of a fanfare. It’s not in-your-face like Camping or cool like Chewing Gum, but it is a brilliantly sharp slice of life which deserves to be a hit. Settle down on the sofa, grab a piece of cake and enjoy. 

Mum, Fridays from May 13. 10pm, BBC2.

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