Given that this is going out closer to The Late Show than to Neighbours, we should probably take the allusion to Listen With Mother as a knowing acknowledgment of the healing power of narrative (Kitty is telling the story to console a little girl in the same plight). All the same, the reminder of children's story-telling sat a little uneasily in a programme that constantly raises the question of exactly how drama about children should differ from children's drama. More than once it crossed my mind that this was an inspired patch-up for some unforeseen hole in the BBC 2 schedules; 'inspired' because it would almost count as invisible mending, 'patch- up' because you can't stop picking at the question of whether it's all really suitable for grown-ups.
The problem may lie in the fact that the script sets out to reflect the exaggerations and occasional stridency of an adolescent world view. It's voice is just a touch louder than it need be, like a teenager who has still to learn the social arts of volume control, and it is much taken with sarcasm as a form of attack. All this is undoubtedly true to life and would probably endear the show to viewers who are the same age as its heroine, but for an older audience the gap between the film's perceptions and those of its protagonist can sometimes seem uncomfortably pinched. When a tedious boyfriend (an unsuccessful predecessor to the one causing all the trouble) is glimpsed boring on the camera cuts away to a close-up of the cat creeping for the door. (I laughed out loud but then I've always had a juvenile sense of humour.)
Elsewhere there are more problems. Lesley Manville is a wonderful actress, capable of edgy sexual tension, but here she is obliged to play the mother as a silly teenager, a women who flaps frantically over the clothes she's going to wear and moons over telephone calls. It isn't that these moments seem implausible themselves, just that the perception of her life is a little flat and self- obsessed. This may be accurate on one front (children do have a tendency to see their parents only as they impinge on their own lives, as people defined by one relationship) but it delivers a character too simplified to really snag your attention.
One would have expected the sexual unease of adolescence to play a more explicit part in the tensions here, but neither character really feels as if they are troubled by desire - Kitty may pull faces when she spots lace underwear on the airer or sees Gerald's rumpled paunch but this feels less like sexual repulsion than hostility finding any purchase it can. There are real pleasures, not least Thora Hird's boring old bat of a babysitter, but if it's to justify staying up so late it needs to grow up a little in the coming episodes.
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