If anyone was expecting BBC2’s new sitcom Motherland to be a light-hearted look at parenting with a few fuzzy warm-hearted kid-witticisms and some amusing gags about milky sick on your shoulder, then they would have been disappointed. Shocked, even.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but with Catastrophe and Divorce writer Sharon Horgan at the helm, I had a feeling it would make me both wince and wail with laughter. Oh. Yes. Thank you, Ms Horgan.
That said, I must admit, I felt mild irritation at the opening scene of Motherland. Seriously, we’re all busy WoMos here, but completely forgetting half term? Man alive, where’s your brain, woman! OK, maybe the odd INSET day (guilty) but a whole half term? As one friend put it, WoMo Julia (played to perfection by Anna Maxwell Martin) comes across as a suppressed lunatic and ‘gives working mothers a bad name.’ And yet the scene that ensues, which sees Julia racing around to find childcare before going into meltdown at a set of temporary traffic lights, is comedy gold. Ye gods, it is VERY funny.
At last, here is a TV show unafraid to expose the warts-and-all bitter frustration and absurd mundanity that is child-rearing. In this 30-minute pilot episode, Julia’s day from hell begins with the school run (for the first day of half term), involves sucking up to the stay-at-home mummy clique gossiping over lattes and culminates in a rather unsavoury moment with spaghetti bolognese in a moment of desperation. Motherland offers up moments that induce flashes of recognition that will leave you wincing. Oh, and did I mention that it’s VERY funny?
And so it should be. Along with Queen of TV comedy Sharon Horgan, the writers include Graham Linehan (of Father Ted fame) and stand-up comedian Holly Walsh. The observational humour is at its cringe-worthy best when Amanda (Lucy Punch), a glamorously blonde yummy mummy whose passive-aggressive smile is as frightening as the sterility of her massive show-home kitchen, cruelly patronises Julia as negotiates a childcare swap.
“You work SO hard. I really admire how you can just switch off your family and focus on your job because, and this is just my personal thing … I would just hate myself too much … I just love my kids too much.”
Motherland is an insanely horrifying gloves-off glimpse into life with kids. And I loved it. Thank goodness the BBC has had the sense to commission a series.