TV: The Trouble With Dad, C4

When I saw David Baddiel’s latest stage show My Family: Not The Sitcom, I expected it to be equally about both of his intriguing, eccentric parents. In fact it was predominantly about his late mother Sarah and her long-running affair with a golfer. There was less about Baddiel’s father Colin, who has a form of dementia called Pick’s Disease. This television documentary redresses the balance, telling the moving story of his father.

Dementia may not necessarily be a natural subject for comedy, but as David Baddiel is presenting this (alongside brother Ivor who writes comedy and brother Dan who is a New York cabbie), there is plenty of humour, mostly, but not exclusively, on the dark side. If you like technicolour swearing this is a delight. Colin, now in his eighties, greets - if that is the right word - his sons with constant tirades of expletives. I probably haven’t seen as much wall-to-wall swearing on television since that documentary about the Scot with Tourettes syndrome

As Baddiel explains, his father was always angry and irascible. Pick’s Disease just seems to have increased these tendencies and added a sexually inappropriate garnish. It is both touching and comic to see Colin’s sons constantly being showered in four-letter-word "total twat" banter. "He's not really the cuddly type," we are informed.

The documentary is opened up by the younger Baddiels visiting others who are going through similar situations. Another elderly male parent can’t seem to stop singing. When he sees David he breaks into Nessun Dorma. It is not quite clear whether this is because he knows the stand-up’s soccer connections or whether it is just random. Maybe he just didn't know the lyrics to Three Lions.

As hard as it is for the Baddiel children, it might have been harder if their father had previously been a gentle, kind parent. But at least they still see signs of the younger Colin they remember from their youth. If his personality is a pilot light it hasn't gone out yet. And there are flickers of a softer, even loving, parent underneath. Towards the end of the documentary they hire a Rolls Royce to take him on a trip because he always loved cars. While he is sitting with his three sons he gives his usual dismissive shrug and suggests that it doesn’t matter what the car is. And maybe it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he has his family around him.

Catch up here.

My Family: Not The Sitcom is at the Playhouse Theatre in London from March 27 - June 3. Review of previous run here.

 

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