Opinion: When Bad Sitcoms Turn Good

Every time a new series of Benidorm starts I watch the first episode. I like to have an open mind and I like to think that maybe this time it'll become my favourite show. But no it doesn't. Rigid? me? But in the last week there have been a couple of sitcoms where I've had to do a critical u-turn.

First up was Mum on Tuesday night on BBC2, written by Stefan Golaszewski. I liked the first series, mainly because of Lesley Manville as the quietly stoic Cathy, getting on with life following the sudden death of her husband Dave with the help of Dave's strong, silent friend Michael (Peter Mullan), who every viewer can see is utterly smitten with her. I found her dim son Jason (Sam Swainsbury) and his girlfriend Kelly (Lisa McGrillis) insufferable. But by the time the second series came round a few weeks ago I couldn't stand Jason and Kelly. They are so thick they make toddlers seem like Oxford dons, so I gave up on it.

I couldn't decide whether they were selfish or thoughtless, wandering around the house leaving Cathy to do all the work. All I knew was that they both boiled my piss. I turned the TV on halfway through this week's episode and gormless Kelly was at it again. She carelessly knocked over a bottle of milk in the kitchen spilling it all over the floor. Did he help Cathy clear the mess up? Of course not. She just wandered out of the room giggling. 

But then there was a scene that turned things on their head. While there was chaos elsewhere Michael, whose mother had just died, pretty much told Cathy that he loved her and that he knew she felt the same about him. It looked at last as if there was going to be some happiness in Cathy's life. And then she came out with a devastating line "Maybe I just miss Dave". Michael's face seemed to fracture into a million pieces and he left without saying another word.

In that moment I was hooked on Mum again. I'll be watching next Tuesday now to see what happens. Even if I have to put up with Cathy and Jason - though this episode ended with them going on holiday so maybe my piss will be spared from more boiling.

My feelings about The Young Offenders has changed too. When this series started on BBC three I did enjoy it but assumed it would just follow the escapades of two tracksuited Irish scalliwags Conor and Jock with stupid bowlcuts and, given that it followed quickly in the wake of the similar-sounding Derry Girls, I thought it was not likely to make much of an impact.

Yet as the series has gone on a combination of terrific performances from newcomers Alex Murphy (Conor) and Chris Walley (Jock) and deeper storylines has made this one of the stand-out sitcoms of the last couple of years. There is also a phenomenal performance from Hilary Rose as Conor's mum Mairead, who takes Jock under her wing when she goes to his house and sees that he has an abusive father.

Maybe this was not such a big turnaround as Mum. I did like The Young Offenders from the start. But I ended up liking it a hell of a lot more. It's great to hear that writer Peter Foott has been commissioned to pen a second series. Let's hope more people discover it and aren't put off by the frankly ridiculous haircuts.

It is often thought that critics take a stance and stick to it for fear of being thought inconsistent. But when I change my mind about something I think that's worth saying. I remember Matt Lucas saying how when he first saw Big Night Out he hated it so much he wrote a letter of complaint to Channel 4. But then he got the joke and it became his favourite comedy. Opinions can change. Although I still don't like Benidorm very much.

Mum is on BBC2 on Tuesdays at 10pm. The Young Offenders is on iPlayer. Actually Mum is on iPlayer too if you want to catch up, which you should want to do.

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