My Family reloaded
Some sitcoms write themselves. In the case of M*A*S*H*, Father Ted and The Office it’s because the characters are so acutely drawn and their relationships so expertly infused with tension that comedy flows effortlessly from every situation they get into. In the case of My Family it’s because of the poverty of aspiration of the writers and the remorseless insistence on sticking to the family sitcom formula.
"Ben and Susan Harper have the utterly predictable sitcom relationship. A stressed, middle-class man manipulated by his dominating wife."
There must be other sitcoms less suited to a clips show but I can’t think of them offhand. My Family: Reloaded provided us with various scenarios from the six-year run of the show. Ben and Susan Harper (luvvie stalwarts Robert Lindsay and Zoë Wanamaker) have the utterly predictable sitcom relationship. A stressed, middle-class man manipulated by his dominating wife. Ben is a dentist by day and a mild-mannered misanthrope by night – a diet Victor Meldrew. Susan is also misanthropic but more inclined to get excited about furnishings and the like.
I’m not sure where the comic conflict between the two is supposed to be. Margaret Meldrew could not have been more different from her husband – she was a civilising force and comic foil in the relationship. Ben and Susan are too alike to have convincing arguments. Every row seems contrived and the put-downs could have been scripted for any one of a hundred sitcom couples.
"Every row seems contrived and the put-downs could have been scripted for any one of a hundred sitcom couples."
They have a thick son, Nick, played excellently by Kris Marshall. In the first series Nick looked to have potential as a great comedy thicky. He may never have been Trigger or Dougal but it was the biggest loss to the show when he went to look for serious acting work like those BT commercials. He has a face built for comedy.
Pissdrinking bastard Daniela Denby-Ashe plays Janey, the wayward stroppy daughter effectively enough. Her malleable morals and unapologetic sexuality are the closest this show gets to subversion. It would be interesting to see what she gets up to past the watershed. And not just for the obvious reasons.
There’s another son who I, and the rest of the viewers, couldn’t really give two fucks about.
The clips came and they went: Ben being punched, Nick entering the room in stupid outfits, Michael playing at soldiers, Nick snogging his father, disturbingly. Nothing really raised a smile despite the best efforts of the sulphate-blitzed studio audience who choked with laughter at every pratfall and telegraphed one-liner.
"Comparing it to the incandescent genius of the recently deceased Malcolm in the Middle just amplifies its shortcomings."
There’s not lot I can say about My Family – it’s a sunny day and I have a life to lead. It isn’t the worst family sitcom around. Tragically, it’s probably the best British one. Comparing it to the incandescent genius of the recently deceased Malcolm in the Middle just amplifies its shortcomings. There will be several more seasons to come. Count on it.
The best thing about it: Daniela, of course
The worst thing about it: It’s content to be what it is
The verdict on My Family: It’s just there.
Marks out of 10: 4