Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

What Is Richard Gere Doing in a Crummy British TV Drama? Plus: The Latest Installment of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag Is Perfect Television

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

What Is Richard Gere Doing in a Crummy British TV Drama? Plus: The Latest Installment of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag Is Perfect Television

Article excerpt

It's odd, if not exactly gobsmacking, to see Richard Gere in a crummy British TV drama. Was this, you wonder, how Princess Anne felt when she first clapped eyes on Meghan Markle across the Sandringham breakfast buffet? Then again, Gere is such a woeful actor (whatever emotion he wants to signal, be it sadness, anger or lust, his technique is simply to close his eyes for a moment), and MotherFatherSon (9pm, 6 March) is so preposterously glossy, albeit in a BBC hey-let's-shoot-the-Gherkin-again kind of a way, that you soon grow accustomed to his presence. Actually, he rather adds to the fun. Is it his fault that he cannot make a protracted enquiry about shortbread sing? Or is it simply that these lines are among the least convincing dialogue ever written?

Mother Father Son is the creation of Tom Rob Smith, who also brought us (the utterly unwatchable) London Spy and The Assassination of Gianni Versace, and it bears all his self-consciously weird trademarks: not since Stephen Poliakoff's last effort have I seen something so desperately pretentious on terrestrial television (pretentious is a word I use only in extremis, so you should take my distress call very seriously). Gere plays Max (he appears not to have a surname), a media mogul whose interests include a British newspaper, The National Reporter edited by his depressed, cokehead son, Caden (Billy Howle). No one at the paper much likes Caden, and he doesn't like them either; his top political hack, Maggie (Sinead Cusack), has just been sacked for disloyalty. But this loathing is second-hand. Caden appears to be afraid of his father--either that, or he's simply too confused by Daddy's riddle-me-ree talk of steak tartare and "accoutrements" to speak--with the result that he, in turn, is a bully, passing on his terror like a baton whenever he stalks the newsroom.

Max is wondering which party to back in the next election; having visited the prime minister, with whom he discussed the pros and cons of shortbread, he then had a meeting with a rising leftist MP, Angela Howard (Sarah Lancashire). She, too, speaks in riddles, so they got on quite well. …

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