Last Night's Viewing: Love and Marriage, ITV
The Apprentice, BBC1

 

Kevin was a little tearful by the end of his baby's christening and determined to make a speech about the importance of family: "Thanks for making this a very special day for me," he said, before choking up a little and calling for a toast. He didn't thank Grandpa Frank specifically, if I remember right, but then again he would have had to be psychic to know that Frank, in particular, was going to make it one of those christenings you just don't forget.

Because a little later, Grandpa Frank fell out of a hammock on to a tree root and accidentally killed himself. If you had been laughing at Kevin's lachrymose sentimentality (I couldn't quite manage it myself), then this seemed to require something altogether different. And that seems to be a general principle in Love and Marriage, ITV's new family drama. At one moment they're playing things for cosy laughs; at the next, people are rending their faces and baring their souls.

Stewart Harcourt's series borrows a device that will already be familiar to people who watch Modern Family: documentary inserts in which the characters sit square on to the camera, sharing their experiences of family life as if they're taking part in a relationships documentary. It's ideally suited to comedy because it can exploit the gap between what you've just seen happening on screen and the idealised bromides that people tend to serve up when asked for the secret of a successful marriage, or how to make relationships work.

The documentary camera can even become a kind of complicit ally when lies are told – with characters shooting a sideways glance into the lens as if to say, "Don't say anything about what you saw the other day". But you do need some comedy for it to really work well, and Love and Marriage seems underpowered in that respect, noodling along with the occasional unconvincing set piece.

Alison Steadman plays the matriarch Pauline, endlessly expected to plug the gap when her grown-up children have a problem, whether it's doling out another loan from the bank of Mum and Dad (Kevin has just been made redundant and doesn't want to tell his wife) or doing all the cooking for some kind of celebratory get-together. But then the combination of Frank's sudden demise and the hammock that did him in – a retirement gift which seems to hint that her fate is to doze into death – stirs rebellion in her. She also has an admirer who gave her an anti-hammock leaving present – a copy of Dylan Thomas's poems with a Post-it note pointing to "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night"; and after ringing him in the middle of the night to ask for a gloss on its meaning, she delivers a seize-the-day aria about life and abdicates from all family responsibilities.

We're going to get a lot more of this baby boomer, late-life regrets drama before we're over the demographic hump, I fear. Like Last Tango in Halifax it seems almost calculatingly aimed at a wedge of the audience that sees no reason why it should be excluded from the excitements of youth. Actually, I'm heading for the thick end of that wedge myself, but one of the excitements of youth I cherish is drama with a bit of a sharp edge to it, and Love and Marriage doesn't always seem to be able to distinguish between pretend pain – which you can use to animate a narrative – and the real thing, which can't be fixed with a heartfelt speech and a few tears. It may get better, but it needs to.

If there's time for one last career-change, I may contemplate corporate away-days. That was the challenge in The Apprentice this week, and by the look of it, if you can shovel aspirational bullshit over your clients with enough confidence and make sure lunch is good, you can make a fortune.

twitter.com/tds153

Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
The party's over: Paul Higgins and Stella Gonet in 'Hope' at the Royal Court

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special

Broadcaster unveils Christmas schedule

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella

books
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Bell in the new BBC series Posh People: Inside Tatler

Review: Posh journalists just can't get enough of each other

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
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 Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital