Television Review

THE OLD TRUISM that the child is father to the man has given way in recent years to a new orthodoxy, that inside every man is a little boy struggling to get out - that, in an emotional sense, all men suffer from stunted growth.

Whether or not that's true, the tension between the demands of adult life and the male urge to retreat to the playground provides the motivating force for two new series, each of them, in their own way, remarkable. Births, Marriages and Deaths (BBC2) follows the fortunes of three men - Terry (Mark Strong), Alan (Ray Winstone) and Graham (Phil Davis) - who have been inseparable since childhood. Now facing the depredations of time and responsibility, they find that their lives are sent into a spin after they drunkenly indulge in an act of schoolboy vengeance. By contrast, time and responsibility are kept at bay in Mrs Merton and Malcolm (BBC1), which observes the housewife cosseting and chiding her 37-year-old son into infantilism.

Of the two, Births, Marriages and Deaths is the more visually extraordinary, with its swooping, crowded camerawork and its lush palette of colours. When visiting a block of flats, the camera climbed up to the roof, hesitated, then glided and dived at the street. When Terry's wedding to the heavily pregnant Pat was interrupted by Graham's wife declaring that the three men had spent Terry's stag-night at a brothel, the camera started back in horror. Faces and bellies bulge out in giddy close-up, pressing beyond the frame into your living room; puke and lipstick splatter or smear the lens. Sometimes the camera stops being an unseen observer and becomes another character - at one point, the central trio suddenly turned to leer at it with territorial aggression.

All this outward richness and strangeness emphasised the unfamiliar, dislocating tone of Tony Grounds' script. Rarely in the first episode was the viewer offered a clear-cut laugh - or, come to that, any surefire emotion. Jokes may have been set up, but the abundance of the production killed the humour. And the energy of the acting works against any more delicate sentiments. Ray Winstone, in particular, is a raging ball of baffled arrogance - leaving home in the morning he shouts at his wife: "You love me" (the bafflement comes when it turns out he might be wrong).

It may be that, underneath its weird exterior, Births, Marriages and Deaths is more ordinary, more predictable than it looks - at any rate, the dread secret that emerged in last night's episode turned out to be a little less dread, to my mind, than we'd been led to believe. But even ordinariness would be a triumph when so much care has been lavished on it: every drama should be made this way.

Mrs Merton and Malcolm is quieter and sparer, and has some overt jokes ("Why didn't Auntie Morag ever marry, Mam?" "Well, there was a man interested in her briefly, but then he were sectioned"). But Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash, playing mother and son, conspire in a deadpan realism that makes this idyll of repressed adulthood seem unbearable. As a gas ad, this was amusing; stretched to 30 minutes, it's a Freudian tragedy.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?