You should be watching Motherland (VIDEO)
So I finished watching Motherland last week. It’s a BBC sitcom about overwhelmed mothers (and one father) in a London suburb, trapped by their schedules and the only local coffee shop which operates under a strict social hierarchy established by the popular mums. You should be watching it. Motherland is fucking hilarious.
It’s written by Sharon Horgan, Graham and Helen Linehan and Holly Walsh and directed by Graham Linehan. He is an expert comedy writer and director and you may remember him from such greats as these*.
Linehan traditionally prefers laugh track driven sitcoms, so for him to exit his preference zone and direct a single-camera laugh-track-free title like Motherland is reason enough to sit up. It must be good material.
You may recall Sharon Horgan from co-writing and co-starring in titles such as these**. Again, more reasons to sit up and pay attention. Admittedly I have limited experience with Holly Walsh. But she works as a stand up comedian so she’s certainly funny enough to put bums in seats, and Motherland is, as I said before, certainly very funny.
With this sort of writing talent the show could probably just take it easy from there, however the casting is also magical. Anna Maxwell Martin plays protagonist Julia who is seemingly barraged in all sides of her life with none of her loved ones coming to help her. Martin takes the uptight nature of Julia and creates comedy gold through pure excessive passive aggression.
Diane Morgan plays Liz. She’s the mum that’s all over the place. A dick with a heart of gold. Diane Morgan has done a lot of fantastic stuff in her career, such as this:
In Motherland Diane Morgan brings the same sharp sense of deadpan surrealism. She’s great. Honestly she’s the reason I gave the show a go. She pretty much gets all the best lines. The stuff that makes you laugh until you cry.
Paul Ready plays Kevin. A lonely man who is desperate to be liked, pathologically desperate. However, unlike similar characters in other works, Kevin still comes across as likeable. His desperation is easy to sympathise with as well as laugh at.
Lucy Punch, the murder victim with an annoying laugh in Hot Fuzz, plays Amanda, the most popular mum of the popular mums. She rules the coffee shop with an iron fist. She speaks to everyone with backhanded compliments that are so obvious she is daring her victim to strike back, but they rarely do. Motherland eventually gives her a lot more depth and makes her more sympathetic. One eventually feels she even deserves to be in charge of the other mums.
Motherland bothers to actually give its characters arcs. It’s humour derives from the mundane often and it can be depressing, however the characters do sometimes get to win and things never get as bleak as Peep Show for example. It’s fundamental sitcom storytelling at its best: well cast characters destined to conflict trapped by a particular place and/or scenario.
In the UK Motherland has been in its entirety on BBC iPlayer. The iPlayer playlist for the show keeps the pilot separated, but it’s worth tracking that down before cracking on with the show proper.
I am unaware of where and when the show is airing in other territories, but it is well worth your time in hunting down, or waiting for a later release.
And do bother to sit through the entirety of the end credits after every episode. That theme tune is immense in its own fucking right.
*Father Ted, Black Books (season 1), The IT Crowd