thu 25/07/2024

Motherland, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

Motherland, BBC Two

Motherland, BBC Two

Promising pilot of comedy about middle-class parenting

Diane Morgan, left, and Anna Maxwell Martin as mothers with very different attitudes to parenting

Motherhood seems to be a thing for Sharon Horgan at the moment. First came Catastrophe, the Channel 4 comedy about unplanned parenthood she writes and co-stars in with Rob Delaney, and now Motherland, a pilot co-written with Graham and Helen Linehan and Holly Walsh for the BBC.

Like Catastrophe, it's an acutely observed comedy, this time about middle-class mums in suburban London. Anna Maxwell Martin is superb as Julia, a time-stressed events organiser with two young children who has been relying on her mother for childcare. Julia's day starts out badly and unfolds into a series of disasters after she forgets that it's half-term: she's late for work and her mother decides she no longer wants to be an unpaid babysitter.

There's a generous thread of wry humour running through it

Desperate for someone to dump her kids with, Julia tries to befriend Amanda - blonde, beautiful and rich, the queen bee of the group of yummy mummies with children at the same school. They congregate in a coffee shop each day, apparently with no pressing business elsewhere, and freeze out anyone Amanda (Lucy Punch) doesn't think cool enough to join her gang. You don't have to be a mother to recognise that scenario...

Amanda doesn't, of course, come to Julia's aid. Rather it's full-time dad Kevin (Paul Ready) - always keen to show his feminist principles by organising email petitions against coffee shops that discriminate against breast-feeding mothers, and who is desperate to be accepted as the mothers' equal - and easygoing mum Liz (the superbly understated Diane Morgan), who lets her child jump off sofas and sod the consequences, who come to Julia's aid. Liz, by the way, is unemployed after working for Citizens Advice: “One of my calls got recorded for training purposes, so that was that.”

It was a neatly and efficiently staged half-hour directed with pace by Graham Linehan. Even if some of the characters were stock - manipulative, passive-aggressive Amanda with her hanger-on girlfriends, plain-speaking and world-weary Northerner Liz, and sappy stay-at-home dad Kevin - the essential truth of much of it would be painfully recognisable to many viewers.

There's a generous thread of wry humour running through it (plus some neat visual gags), and the writers don't spare anyone, even Julia, who is quite happy to use her new-found friends Kevin and Liz as (you've guessed it) unpaid babysitters. It's the relationship between this threesome that - should Motherland go to a full series, and it really should - will surely form the core of the show. I can't wait.


superb review and a great pilot. i hope this gets made.  graham linehans writing and I wonder how much stuff he has pinched from her in the past!

Was it suburban London? I don't recall London being mentioned. I thought it might be and was possibly meant to be anywhere?  Interesting that in the opening scenes it looked very much like the car was travelling down one side of Roath Park in Cardiff.  So I checked the end credits and a Welsh production company/team seems to have been involved. There is life outside London you know.

It was shot in Kensal Rise in London. 

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