TV Reviews: My Wonderful Life and Keeping Mum

LAST NIGHT

For a pen portrait of ITV's newest sitcom, let me hand you over to its creator, Simon Nye. "My Wonderful Life is the bastard offspring of Cardiac Arrest and Roseanne," he says in the programme's publicity material, "with Coronation Street as the wise, fag-smoking midwife!" To which the only printable response is "You wish, pal". But perhaps he meant this as an ironic joke about the bloodstock obsessions of television executives, forever hoping to breed their new shows out of past champions - "Well it's sort of Vicar of Dibley with a Crackerish undertow". In which case, the absence of a tone of voice will have transformed a knowing piece of self-deprecation into unintended boastfulness.

We should give him the benefit of the doubt, partly on past record, and partly because when you watch the programme, you can see what he's getting at with his interbred pedigree. This series had a test run a while ago as a one-off drama, and even then its blend of sombre emotions and sardonic wisecracks made any crude genre classification unsafe. Donna is a nurse with a broken marriage and a smart mouth, negotiating the variable charms of parenthood ("Sometimes I feel like I spend most of me time doing things I really don't want to do") and trying to decide between dull dependable men and exciting unreliable ones. Roger is an earnest doctor whose idea of flirtation is to poke his head round the door and issue weather bulletins ("Don't forget your brollies tomorrow, because there's a 45 per cent chance of rain"), while Lawrie is an over-sexed ambulance man whose idea of flirtation is to hustle Donna into the nearest available linen cupboard. Last night, Donna tried an experiment in domestication, inviting Lawrie round for ready-meal salmon in puff pastry and freezer cabinet tiramisu. "Sitting and eating?" says a friend warily, "you've only ever done drinking and lying down." It conveys something of the atmosphere of wry disenchantment that she ends up alone in a child's bunk, reading a teen comic.

It's difficult to say yet whether it will quite come off (although there was a certain astringent charm to Amanda Swift's opening script), but Emma Wray's winning performance as Donna gives it every chance, and it has to be said that it is a relief to watch a comedy which is brave enough to dispense with the safety rail of the laugh track.

Keeping Mum (BBC1) does have audience laughter, but it would be unreasonable to accuse it of cowardice on those grounds alone. Given that it is a sitcom about senility and filial guilt (the word Alzheimer's is not uttered, but circles ominously overhead), those involved can be forgiven for feeling the need of some barrier between them and the precipitous drop into melancholy that is only inches away. Most of the comedy derives from the distracted logic of Stephanie Cole's character, a mumsy amnesiac who replaces most substantive nouns with the word "wossname", and hums the wedding march whenever her son is in the same room as a woman, or, indeed, mentioned in the same sentence.

She is looked after by Andrew, a mildly depressive figure who alternates between furious exasperation and helpless guilt. His brother (David Haig) is a paragon of self-righteous egoism, given to turning away pleas for assistance with a bit of well-polished psycho-babble: "Help is an emotive and subjective word Andy," he says, when his brother sends up a distress flare after a particularly aggravating day. Like My Wonderful Life, Keeping Mum doesn't play this simply for laughs - television has given us infuriating old bats before, but Cole's performance is never just clownish. Her moments of lucidity include a wistful recognition of how close she is to being pushed out into the snow, a fact which checks your instinct to laugh too casually at her misadventures (such as boiling a plastic kettle by putting it on top of a gas ring). The result is a programme that is only intermittently funny, to be honest, but at least has larger ambitions for what popular comedy can do.

Arts and Entertainment
Above the hat of the toy gibbon, artist Mark Roscoe included a ‘ghost of a bird’ and a hidden message
art
Arts and Entertainment
Alien: Resurrection, Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder
film
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
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.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable