When BBC Three moved online earlier on this year, it left behind a great comedy legacy, including Little Britain, Gavin & Stacey and Him & Her, and now the BAFTA award-winning team behind Him & Her are back for a brand new comedy Mum, this time on BBC Two.
Writer Stefan Golaszewski reunites with director Richard Laxton, producer Lyndsay Robinson and executive producer Kenton Allen to create a comedy which much like Him & Her is funny, heartwarming and wonderfully observed.
Mum Cathy is played perfectly by Lesley Manville (River) and the series joins her at a milestone in her life. Throughout the six episodes we follow her and her family through a year of new beginnings as she rebuilds her life following the death of her husband, David.
Lesley Manville, who was most recently seen in BBC One’s drama River, delivers a really warm performance in Mum as Cathy, a woman who is finding who she is again and maybe, if she could only see it, finding love a second time around.
But who with? I hear you ask. His name is Michael (Peter Mullan) and is her and her late husband’s old friend who has been spending a lot of time with Cathy, helping her adjust to life without David.
Michael is a very different character for Mullan He's full of subtlety and a gentle soul. It's clear, to viewers at least, that he's got feelings for Cathy, and probably has done ever since they first met. But what's nice is that he isn't overt with his feelings. It’s all played very subtly.
He'll look at some flowers in the hall and assume they're for Cathy from an admirer, but rather than confront her about it, he'll keep quiet and hide his disappointment. A disappointment that we as viewers are able to see, but Cathy is oblivious to. There's also the sadness in his eyes when she tells him that she's meeting up with a man she met on the internet.
In many ways, them not being together makes Mum all the more beautiful and really sets it apart from other comedies on television. Setting the series across a year was a great way to make us feel, after six episodes, that we really know the characters inside and out.
Each episode focuses on a particular day within a specific month. The first episode, January, is set on the morning of Cathy’s late husband’s funeral as her family gather at the house to wait for the funeral cars.
It is here where we first meet her son Jason, played by Sam Swainsbury (Atlantis) and his new and over-enthusiastic girlfriend Kelly, played by Lisa McGrillis (Hebburn).
Jason is perhaps the most normal character in Mum, but of course normal is what Golaszewski does best, and I'd imagine a pretty difficult part to play. When asked by his mother for a vase he fetches a glass, and when Michael arrives, shows off the . Sam does a great job and in the way Russell Tovey has become a real star since Him & Her I expect the same to happen to Sam.
The morning of the funeral also marks the first time Cathy meets Kelly. It might be called Mum, and the focus (quite rightly) will be on Lesley Manville, but for me the real star of Mum is Lisa McGrillis.
The second she walks through the door Kelly greets her with a kiss, asks her if it was nice before apologising for her roots and revealing that she’s wearing a red dress to the funeral. She goes on to explain that the black dress her mum washed was too short and, in her own words, she can’t “go to Jason’s dad’s funeral with my bum out”. Well quite.
As first impressions go, Kelly is certainly making one, and it’s not long before she’s knocking over furniture, asking to borrow Cathy’s knickers (no, really - she decided against going to the funeral knicker-free) and saying she’s sorry to hear about her husband’s death, only to finish her sympathy with “and that he took so long to die”. There’s some work to be done there, that’s for sure!
With a character like Kelly there's a real danger that she can be over played. It's very easy for that character to become too silly, an unrecognisable caricature, but Lisa's excellent performance ensures that Kelly is always rooted in reality.
And that was the beauty of Him & Her. The characters weren't that far removed from everyday life, from people we know, and in fact, very often the laughs would come out of the mundane situations, the silences or pointless chats about going to the toilet.
In fact, one of my favourite moments is when Cathy is talking to Kelly and excuses herself as she needs to go to the toilet, prompting Kelly to ask “Number one or number two?” before quickly realising how inappropriate that question was!
Also, look out for some genuinely beautiful scenes later on in the series between Cathy and Kelly when Kelly's mother, played by Tanya Franks (Pulling) arrives.
As well as Michael, Jason and Kelly, Cathy also has to put up with her brother Derek (Ross Boatman) and his rather dismissive and snobbish new partner, Pauline (Dorothy Atkinson), as well as her in-laws Maureen and Reg (Marlene Sideway & Karl Johnson).
The second we meet Maureen and Reg, she is complaining about her new pills and rather than being sympathetic accuses her of "faking it" and goes on to call her a fat slag and a fat bitch. It might not be a loving relationship between the two of them, but Reg’s dismissiveness of Maureen is an absolute treat to watch and comedy gold.
Not only does Stefan know how to write a great sitcom, but he also knows how to pick an excellent theme song.
Every time I watched Him & Her (which was and still is a lot) I struggled to get Lulu’s Boom Bang-a-Bang out of my head and after watching all six episodes of Mum, it’s happened again.
Only this time Stefan has turned to a different Lulu, Lulu and the Lampshades (now known as Landshapes) and their VERY catchy 2011 version of Cups.
Here’s the trailer, and please, if you love television don’t let Mum pass you by. It really is worth watching.