18 May 2021 569 Views

Motherland and Bloods: Both totally awful but saved by one asset…

by James Murphy

..Her name is LUCY PUNCH!..

So, why do I watch a comedy that is not funny, let alone two in same week? Coz Lucy is in it, innit. She’s funny in everything. The way the lady moves her teeth can define a character. Ms Punch is beautiful. Fills the screen with presence. Drawback is that she tends to get cast nowadays as a supporting character: there to make the leads look better. That has the opposite result: Lucy cannot help but steal the show and the moment she’s not in a scene, the wider limitations of the pitch are shown.

In MOTHERLAND (BBC), Punch plays Amanda, the best looking, most elegant and yet possibly the least sensitive mom at the local school. Fine. Except that the other characters are devoid of charm, empathy or reality.

The show also, like seemingly an  an entire generation of sit-com speak, lazily apes the Richard Curtis school of um er awkward rom-com. Which is fine too, except that 4 Weddings et al had actual wit, one liners and above all, reached for a sense of warmth and inclusion amidst the more biting / sparky stuff.

But:  If , like MOTHERLAND, your setting is a (way post 1990s) present day idiom of equality; it makes little to no sense having anyone talk as though the previous generation’s concerns still drove the dialogue. All the while undermining the elderly, mocking inadequacy and mistaking nasty for witty? Yuck. 

People don’t talk like they do in Motherland in everyday life. If they did, you would think they were just being cruel, rude or suffering some mental health ailment which in any event we’d now be talking about openly rather than cloaking in comedy.  So it does not even work as a heightened reality satire.

You might, just might, save that dynamic IF you injected some kindness amidst the contrived verbal pratfalls.  Even comedy needs some sense of definition to its own universe. This doesn’t. So it fails, bigly.

Yes, ‘bigly’. I use a supposed Trump-ism. Why? Coz this show thinks it is still ‘ok’ to joke not so much about the Donald as to outright produce propaganda for the veneration of Saint Obama. Get the memo- Trump LOST. He is GONE. so satirising him or indeed, impugning his kids, is just lazy and dead air. It’s also the very kind of nasty for which everyone supposedly hated the former POTUS, right?

Worst of all: there is an obligatory dissing of the Catholic Church. These supposedly doing ok ish middle class ish parents worry about catchment areas. Despite clearly being 1: able to at least ponder private education and in any event 2: living in the era of the Academy cult (schools that look like airports where no kids misbehave, bit scary imho)..they still want to blag it into a Catholic school. Cue anachronistic and plain offensive scene in which one character enters the Church, says a fake prayer, lights a candle and recites pseudo Latin gibberish.

You would not do the same routine in a Mosque, would you? Course not. Reminds one of Outnumbered (itself more charming than Motherland by far but even so) which lectured us all about liberalism and the evils of race based prejudice yet nonetheless made a cheap quip about ‘Bank of Ireland’. Triple standards.

Moving swiftly on: BLOODS. It’s an original SKY product which itself ought to be a contradiction in terms because that channel was among the founding fathers of television and film as consumer products with channels as mere open depositories for said. But hey, merit for trying, and especially something brave and different in format.

A comedy about the bleakest of bleak mortal dangers and those who save us. It is set in an Ambulance unit, with occasional air and motorbike action in between.

There are some glossy, high budget production values for what is basically, an experimental sitcom. It’s nice to look at and moves at a sketchy, snappy pace, populated by faces you know and some new talent. It just isn’t very funny. Seriously. Not one laugh in its duration AND I was in a good, forgiving mood!

The severity of the ‘sit’-uation, alas, simply does not match the ‘com’-edy here. You cannot poke fun at those who risk their lives to help us in reality and it is very difficult, if not impossible, to riff on the topic of tragic death, in today’s charged climate. So the tone is all over the place, as are the show’s politics and attitudes toward class, rank and race. Jane Horrocks is wasted in the lead here as is Lucy Punch in occasional cameo.

So why do I watch BLOODS? Same reason as MOTHERLAND. LUCY PUNCH.

They should just put her, the mom and neighbour from Outnumbered (Claire Skinner, Hattie Morahan) and Jane Horrocks in a show, together and edit all the scenes into one reel. 

What can I say? I LOVE LUCY! She deserves better..as in Hollywood, better as she had a decade ago circa BAD TEACHER and DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS.


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