Since hitting the public consciousness squarely between the eyes with her own sketch show, Catherine Tate’s third TV outing in something else pulled in 5.7 million viewers last night – almost a quarter of the audience – but all it proved to me was that it’s not as easy to make the transition from comedy characterisations to comedy drama as, for example, Steve Coogan makes it look.
While the histrionics of The Runaway Bride were left mostly behind, and there were brief moments of pure gold, for the most part what we got was a wooden amalgam of bits from The Catherine Tate show.
For those not familiar with Kate Long’s story, The Bad Mother’s Handbook tells the story of a year in the lives of three women: Karen (Tate), her teenage daughter Charlotte (Holly Grainger) and Karen’s mother, Nan (Anne Reid, and no relation to Tate’s other alter ego).
Karen is disillusioned to be a thirty-something divorcee living on a council estate and looking after her stroppy teenager and a Mum whose health is failing. When the chance of a school trip to Paris presents itself, she jumps at it, despite the problems it will cause for everyone else. But while applying for a passport Karen discovers she’s adopted. So far, so formulaic, and the standard plotlines continue to come thick and fast as the teenage daughter is dumped, falls pregnant, and is subjected to nerdy love from new boy Daniel (Robert Pattinson).
Like something from Coronation Street, all the men in the story are clueless, helpless, or both, and the women are left to fend for themselves and each other, only they have to go through the usual hoops before discovering that they are all each other needs and family is best yadda yadda yadda.
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