“Sorry if this isn’t the sort of thing to say at a funeral”
In terms of the Venn diagram of my favourite things, you really could not get more precise than putting Lesley Manville on screen and then following that up with a shot of Sam Swainsbury in his boxer shorts. No, I’m not recounting a dream, this is the actual opening sequence of the first episode of new BBC2 sitcom Mum, directed by Richard Laxton (who worked with Manville most recently in River) – safe to say I’m hooked.
Written by Stefan Golaszewski, probably best known for Him and Her, Mum looks set to be a gently observational comedy rather than a straight-up sitcom. This first episode focused on Manville’s Cathy preparing for the day of her husband’s funeral, dealing with the influx of visitors to her house including her son’s new girlfriend, her brother and his snobbish wife, her ageing in-laws and an old family friend.
And whilst yes, you might point out that it is hardly a laugh-a-minute show, you’d be sorely mistaking what Mum is trying to do here. Casting the likes of Manville and Dorothy Atkinson (the snob) with all their Mike Leigh experience and Peter Mullan too, another actor hardly known for his comic roles, the sense of humour here is subtle, worked out of recognisably human moments of gaucheness (Lisa McGrillis’ girlfriend unable to stop putting her foot in it) and ultimately, tenderness.
It’s not going to be to everyone’s taste and more’s the pity, as the evidence is already there for this being another of Manville’s excellent performances of real emotional depth and truthfulness, coming out of the seemingly casual conversational nature of this new comedy.