DEBORAH ROSS: The mother of all Bafta travesties…
Wednesday, Channel 4
This week I am suffering from Bafta rage. You will know you are suffering from Bafta rage if, every time you think of the Bafta television awards, which were broadcast last Sunday, you fill with rage. That is the main symptom. You may be putting petrol in the car when you think of the Baftas and fill with rage, or you may be pairing socks when you think of the Baftas and fill with rage. I only watched the Baftas in order to see Mum scoop all the awards. ‘I will enjoy seeing Mum scoop all the awards,’ I even said to myself. But? It came away with nothing. No award for best comedy series and no award for Lesley Manville and no award for Peter Mullan. No disrespect to the winners (Sally4Ever, Jessica Hynes, Steve Pemberton) but Mum is iconic. Mum is funny, but also subtle and tender and puts a 60-year-old woman centre stage and has the courage and skill to be about what isn’t said. It is absolutely beautiful and should have swept the… yup, filling with rage again.
Lesley Manville and Peter Mullan in Mum. The deal this time out is that Cathy and Michael are an item
However, it is back for its third and final series, so there is that to celebrate at least. All six episodes were made available on iPlayer after the first was broadcast, so if you don’t want to know whether Cathy and Michael were put to bed, so to speak, you might wish to turn the page or go pair socks, which you may be able to do without filling with rage, but I cannot.
This series saw Cathy (Manville) and family transplanted from Chingford to the extravagant country house rented by Pauline to celebrate Derek’s birthday. (I am assuming you know who is who, and if you don’t then you have no one to blame but yourself. I’ve been talking this show up since day one and if you’ve yet to watch I can’t be held responsible.) The opening episode was, I have to say, a little worrying. Is Derek (Ross Boatman) now too cartoonishly childlike? (‘I picked a blackberry! From a bush!’) Is Pauline (Dorothy Atkinson) too grotesquely pretentious? (‘I’m leaning on my new car.’) Is Kelly (Lisa McGrillis) too tactless if well meaning? Is Jason (Sam Swainsbury) too thick? But, I then realised, they are writ large so that Cathy and Michael (Mullan) can be writ small. You have to have that wall of noise. To offset the quiet yearning. And to note what isn’t being said.
The deal this time out is that Cathy and Michael are an item – a trip to the cinema and then what happened afterwards which, as they both said, was ‘nice’ – but they’ve kept it secret, so can their relationship flourish? Or will Jason, who fears his father is being replaced, make them think better of it? One evening they all drink too much and, as we hear in the morning, Cathy fell asleep on Michael’s shoulder. Kelly is fine about it – ‘You fell asleep on Michael but even though you are old and were on each other it wasn’t gross’ – while Jason is horrified and won’t let it go. Will Cathy assert herself, finally? I was longing for her to say, ‘Jason, you live your life and I’ll live mine and stop doing those impressions of Michael as they’re cruel.’ Or will she do the ‘mum’ thing and put Jason first?
There were some classic scenes. The opening of episode three, when Cathy tries to make a sandwich for herself and escape with a book without anyone knowing… we’ve all been there. And some classic lines. Kelly: ‘I’m a feminist so it’s important to me that women are pampered and made to feel nice and stuff.’ Or Derek, in his increasing desperation to please Pauline: ‘You’re so pretty!’
Last series, Cathy got the big speech at the end (‘I can’t stop thinking about you…’), but on this occasion it was Michael: ‘You melt me like butter, Cathy. You melt me like f****** butter…’ I cried. And when Cathy told Pauline where to go? I was thrilled, as was Pauline. ‘Well done, Cathy!’ This is magnificently written (by Stefan Golaszewski) and magnificently performed and magnificently perceptive about older people so why it didn’t win… Yup, filling with rage again.
And now I’ve barely space for the two big thumping dramas that arrived this week: The Virtues from Shane Meadows and Years And Years from Russell T Davies. We’ll return to Years And Years next week but for now, The Virtues, which features an incredibly powerful performance from Stephen Graham (not that you’d expect anything less). But it isn’t pretty.
Graham plays Joseph, whose life spirals out of control when his ex-partner and son emigrate to Australia. Meadows does not shy away from distress. There’s a dinner that is excruciatingly painful as well as the best/worst bender since Patrick Melrose. The Virtues is mesmerising but so hurting and sad that at certain points you do wonder: is this misery fetishised? It will probably prove rewarding but it is a difficult watch unlike, say, Mum, which should have won… Yeah, yeah, yeah.