Last weekend, when I really should have been working on my extremely overgrown back garden (not a euphemism), or sorting out my man-cave (also not a euphemism) both in advance of my first guests coming to visit in mid-September, I actually spent the whole time glued to the television. I am truly the Prince of Procrastination.
I noticed the other day that all three series of Mum are now available to watch on the BBC iPlayer, a show which I loved and (I think) I wrote about on here at the time.
It turns out it’s there to whet the appetite for a brand new series by the chap who wrote Mum, Stefan Golaszewski, which starts on BBC1 tomorrow night (Sunday 14th August 2022, in case you’re not reading this on the day of publication). Marriage stars Sean Bean and Nicola Walker, and having had my passion for Golaszewski’s writing reignited by my Mum-binge, I can’t wait. They’re both great actors, but neither renowned for their comedic chops.
But that’s fine, because the central pairing of Mum weren’t either.
In case you’ve never seen it, Mum tells the story of recently bereaved Cathy (Lesley Manville – most recently seen in BBC1 drama Sherwood, which I also heartily recommend, but for very different reasons) and the possibility of a romance blossoming with her dead husband’s best mate, Michael (Peter Mullan).
Of the two, it was perhaps Mullan’s casting which raised most eyebrows, and I gather he took quite some persuading to take the role on. Which is hardly surprising when you think about the weathered tough guy roles he had made his name playing: I first encountered him as a largely silent hood in Danny Boyle’s 1994 movie Shallow Grave, then he popped up again in Boyle’s masterpiece Trainspotting as Swanney ‘Mother Superior’ (“So called because of the length of his habit”), who spends much of the film cooking up on a kitchen breakfast bar in a filthy crack-den, and takes Renton (Ewan McGregor) to hospital after he OD’s in his flat. But you know all this, right?
The beauty of Mum is the naturalistic conversation, which never sounds in the least bit scripted; it’s in the looks and glances between Cathy and Michael – from the moment he arrives, it’s clear that Michael is besotted with Cathy, but has never been able to act upon it. But now his friend and Cathy’s husband is no longer on the scene, the path is clear and he’s wondering whether he should lay his cards on the table, and if so, when is an appropriate amount of time for him to wait? Cathy, meanwhile, still grieving and putting on a brave face, is oblivious. There were so many moments I was close to blubbing, so perfect were the performances and the script.
And that’s why I hold up such high hopes for Marriage; because in Mum, Cathy and Michael get very few of the funny lines – they are the drama around which the comedy takes place.
Mum gives us a whole plethora of funny characters: there’s Cathy’s son (Sam Swainsbury), forever wandering around in his boxer shorts, shovelling the contents of another packet of crisps into his gob (in this respect, he very much reminded me of an old flat-mate of mine and Hel’s); his girlfriend Kelly (Lisa McGrillis), beautifully blonde and airheaded, heart in the right place but incapable of engaging mind before mouth, forever saying the wrong thing; Cathy’s dim-but-trying brother Derek (Ross Boatman), focusing on all the wrong minutiae of life, and his awful partner Pauline (Dorothy Atkinson) who looks down her nose at everyone and dishes out not-even-slightly subtle insults and put-downs (in Series 3, the moment when, after being on the receiving end of one such put-down for the umpteenth time, Cathy sweetly says: “You can go fuck yourself” to Pauline, I almost wanted to punch the air in celebration; Pauline of course has it covered: “Well done,” she says, in begrudging admiration, and a ceasefire, a new found respect between the two is, briefly, in place); and then there’s Cathy’s in-laws, Reg (Karl Johnson) and Maureen (Marlene Sidaway) who are at the age when they really don’t give a fuck about saying what they think, who hears them or who they might offend.
What I’m trying to say is this: Mum is pretty much perfect, there’s not a mis-step throughout all three series, and that’s a very rare thing indeed. If you want to escape the horror of the sun this weekend, you could do a lot worse than drawing the curtains and working your way through them: I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Time for a tune or two. Or three. Actually, four. But they all sound a bit samey.
I wanted to post the theme tune, “Cups (The Long Way Round)” but I’m really not sure who actually performs it.
See, Shazam identified it as being by Jean Simone:
However, wikipedia credits it to American actor Anna Kendrick, as apparently she sings it in one of the Pitch Perfect movies:
But even that is, according to wiki “adapted” from Lulu and The Lampshades, which I’m pretty sure is the version I posted when I first wrote about Mum:
Much as I think Ms Kendrick is the hottest thing since the jar of jalapeno chutney I recently purchased, I’ll have to eschew her inevitable advances and plump for Lulu and her Lampshades version as the version of choice for me. Sorry Anna.
Although I think Shazam has it right as to which version is the actual theme tune to Mum.
But imagine my surprise when I found out that it’s actually a “revival” (which is different to a cover version, apparently) of an old Carter Family tune:
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner!
Enjoy, and happy binge-watching.