Love and Marriage, ITV | TV reviews, news & interviews
Love and Marriage, ITV
It's a nice idea, but ITV's family-centric comedy drama is light on entertainment
They say that you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I began to grow bored with Love and Marriage about halfway through the opening credits. What seemed like endless pairs of smiling, photogenic couples swung onto the screen against a twee, brightly-coloured backdrop, and I realised I was already struggling to care.
I mean, get it, okay? Different branches of the family tree and all that? The new six-part comedy drama revolves around the trials and tribulations of the Paradise family, but the big problem with Love and Marriage is that there are too many characters, and very few of them seem to have any redeeming qualities.
It's not a spoiler to reveal that Pauline walks out on her family by the end of the episode
I say “comedy drama” but the laughs - at least in this first episode - are few and far between. Family matriarch Pauline Paradise (Alison Steadman) is retiring from her job as a lollipop lady, a fact that seems to be lost on stoic husband Ken (Duncan Preston). Eldest son Kevin (Stewart Wright) is hiding money worries behind an all-consuming obsession with preparing the family for an intensely competitive annual pub quiz and the upcoming christening of his new baby (pictured below, with mum Ashley Jensen), which long-suffering Pauline is expected to host and lay on food for. Daughter Heather (Niky Wardley) runs through all the sitcom cliches in her desperation for a child, while youngest Martin (Graeme Hawley) seems to have more than enough for all of them.
Given the pre-publicity, it’s not really a spoiler to reveal that Pauline walks out on her family by the end of the episode - albeit only down the road, to the seven-bedroom house where her dramatically different sister (Celia Imrie) is carrying on with Larry Lamb, who's married to somebody else. The final straw comes following the death of her father at the youngest Paradise’s christening, which seems particularly tragic as he got all the best lines.
It might not sound like it from the above, but I really want to like Love and Marriage. It has a great cast and, with its focus on family dynamics and its older female leads, stands out in a schedule full of crime dramas and period fluff. There are a couple of hilarious scenes that hint at the show’s potential, including a scene straight out of US comedian Louis CK’s sitcom when some of Martin’s many children ask him whether their great-grandfather has gone to heaven. Taking a full episode to set up Pauline’s big decision was probably the biggest mistake, as it’s as if the show hasn’t really been given the chance to get going.
Those with the patience to tune in next week might find out whether Pauline goes on a date with the kindly teacher who gave her a copy of Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” on her retirement. They might discover whether Heather’s suspicions about her husband are correct, what happened to Celia Imrie’s daughter and what’s really going on with Kevin’s finances. However, I probably won’t be one of them.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Culture Club's return would be a sure-fire hit, if only they could nail the harmony
Jimmy McGovern's colonial convict drama grips from the off
Incredible secrets of the airborne nocturnal predators
Conan Doyle is a bluff, romantic Holmes in ITV's splendidly thrilling three-parter
The Swedish-born doctor's daughter on her rapid rise from 'Kill List' and 'Twilight' to 'Downton', 'Ripper Street' and Jimmy McGovern's 'Banished'
Few laughs in Matt Lucas's almost silent sitcom
Superb drama from another age reaches its chilling endgame
Picasso's women and the role they played in his work
Lord Bragg explores an actor's life
Tension runs high in Israeli original of television drama we know already
Belated arrival of the story they tried to ban
Dr Janina Ramirez throws light on the Dark Ages