Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV... Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Finds Humour and Horror in Painfully Real Motherhood and Welcomes the Return of Detectorists

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV... Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Finds Humour and Horror in Painfully Real Motherhood and Welcomes the Return of Detectorists

Article excerpt

Byline: Alastair McKay

THE new comedy Motherland (BBC iPlayer), which satirises motherhood, from yummy to slummy, is pretty funny. Sometimes it's funnier than that, and occasionally the moments of recognition are so acute that it borders on documentary and is merely painful. Mostly it flickers between pathos, bathos and full-on horror, and so can be said to be an accurate representation of the reality of schoolgate limbo -- the no-man's land that is neither here nor there, where women are forced to re-occupy their childhood insecurities.

The central character is Julia, an events organiser, played by Anna Maxwell Martin as a kind of female Basil Fawlty, acting entirely without self-knowledge and perpetually on the edge of a precipice. Julia is completely selfish and almost entirely horrible, so it's a credit to Maxwell Martin that she emerges as sympathetic cipher for the have-it-all mum, a woman on a verge, trapped between the needs of her children and the demands of her job. "Who does this deliberately?" she asks.

Lucy Punch plays Amanda, the alpha yummy burdened by her own perfection, as a cross between Patsy Stone and Cruella de Vil. And, since sympathy for the middle classes is not the point here, the best character is Liz (Diane Morgan), the single mum who unnerves everybody by being gobby and working class.

There is a man, too. A sort of man. Kevin (Paul Ready) is a stay-at-home dad whose DNA comprises 75 per cent emasculation and 25 per cent repressed homosexuality. He's the least satisfactory character but he does have one of the best lines in the series, when lovely (awful) Amanda unexpectedly visits him at home: "Watch your clean shoes on the dirty doormat."

If Motherland suffers from an uneven tone, the returning Detectorists (BBC iPlayer) is a masterpiece of restrained despair. …

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