wed 17/01/2018

Girlfriends, ITV review - Kay Mellor helps the middle-aged | reviews, news & interviews

Girlfriends, ITV review - Kay Mellor helps the middle-aged

Girlfriends, ITV review - Kay Mellor helps the middle-aged

Cheerful new drama high-fives women refusing to be left on the shelf

Golden girls: Miranda Richardson, Zoë Wanamaker and Phyllis Logan in 'Girlfriends'

You know where you are with Kay Mellor. Somewhere in the north, among a group of people brought together by pregnancy or prison, weight or, as in the case of the recent Love, Lies and Records, work. With Girlfriends (ITV), the common denominator is encroaching age. The drama's three protagonists are all knocking on a bit and wondering if life can possibly be so resoundingly over. “I just want to feel like I used to feel,” said lollilop lady Gail. “Like I’m alive.”

Anyone on the cusp of giving up the ghost will certainly have felt more alive after being introduced to the trio of women of a certain vintage. Highlights included a decree nisi for Gail (Zoë Wanamaker), death by drowning for the husband of Linda (Phyllis Gordon), and the news that he had no life insurance and was having an affair, a spontaneous combustion at work for Sue (Miranda Richardson) plus a car crash. As for their children, Sue’s son Andrew (Philip Cumbus) is stuck in the closet, while Gail’s boy Tom (Matthew Lewis) is just out of jail and has already broken the conditions of his bail while sleeping with Linda’s grieving daughter Ruby (Daisy Head).

It’s all kicking off, then. There’s enough going on there to defibrillate the weakest ticker. But when you strip out all the tottering heap of incidental clutter, at its heart Girlfriends tells of women facing their 60th birthday haunted by a grim trio of age-related torments: divorce, widowhood and age discrimination at work. You don’t have to be a veteran of Greenham Common, where these three met, to feel their pain.

Anthony Head, Girlfriends, ITVAs ever with Mellor, her instinct is to confront life’s slings and arrows with empathy and understanding, but also a bold smile and a smutty joke or two. So there’s plenty of slapstick: slipping on cat shit, make-up malfunctions, frank facts about combining laxatives and sleeping pills etc. Sue in particular, though outrageously shafted in the front by her married lover and boss (Antony Head, pictured above) of the bridal magazine she co-founded, is mainly a gargoyle at this point. Self-obsessed, ridiculous, and given to random screaming, she could barely summon up a consoling word at Linda’s husband’s funeral, at which she arrived late. The one time I felt some sympathy with her was when she was asked to hand over the contents of her jealously guarded contacts book. In journalism, this is perhaps the most egregious imposition.

This cheerful clarion call is going to find many friends among the baby boomer demographic, and possibly beyond. Terrestrial television has become more mindful that its audience does not mainly consist of spring chickens, which is why the tedious Real Marigold franchise limps on and on and Last Tango in Halifax struck such a chord. Mellor is a more overt populist than Sally Wainwright. Her show Fat Friends is now a musical starring none other than Freddie Flintoff. As ever with Mellor, her overriding instinct is to entertain, which means everything hovers about six inches off the ground. In this blowsy parade of revelations, Mellor's three ladies won’t die wondering.

@JasperRees

This cheerful clarion call is going to find many friends among the baby boomer demographic, and possibly beyond

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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