"Why aren’t there more TV shows where a camera crew follow a family around? Come on Channel 4!" That was #144 in the Things You Never Hear pamphlet that circulated at the last commissioning round at Horseferry Road. So in that sense the Grewals, the subject of the second season of The Family, are an answer to a question nobody asked. Not that this should bother us unduly — it’s either a worthwhile project or it’s not. Quarter of a century on, Paul Watson’s original fly-on-the-wall classic still informs so much programme making today. Can the Grewals really show us something new?
"’Why aren’t there more TV shows where a camera crew follow a family around? Come on Channel 4!’ That was #144 in the Things You Never Hear pamphlet that circulated at the last commissioning round at Channel 4."
Well, they are an Anglo Indian Sikh family looking to make their way in a world that doesn’t care so maybe they can. Arvinder is the man of the house. Lazy, moaning and up to no good he does everything with a twinkle in his eye in the very sure knowledge that the camera is catching everything. His wife Sarbjit is a gigantic flagcracker who believes wholeheartedly in being a traditional Indian wife – up to a point.
That point is where Arvinder starts acting the goat which, given that goat is his default setting, happens rather a lot. They bitch and gripe at each other constantly. She teases him about losing his hair, he calls her a pig which is fair comment really – that waistline didn’t just drop out of the sky one day (imagine if it did – the mother of all tsunamis). Larjbit takes it in her stride (well, takes it sitting down while tucking into a plate of pakora)
“Sheesh, the carpenters are getting picky who they associate with now? They’ve had a right bug up their crack since Jesus of Nazareth.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Indian family there wasn’t someone disowned for falling in love with the wrong boy. Meet Shay – she’s a lovely piece of henna dyed brown-eyed pie. Married to the Grewals’ eldest son Sunny, she hasn’t spoken to her mother, who disapproves of the union, in five years. It’s a caste thing – you wouldn’t understand (I know I didn’t). Suffice to say that the Grewals are from farming stock and Shay is from carpentry stock. Sheesh, the carpenters are getting picky who they associate with now? They’ve had a right bug up their crack since Jesus of Nazareth.
But fuck the carpenters, right? Sunny and Shay are going ahead planning a big traditional Indian wedding (complementing the original modest registry office affair) which, interestingly, is exactly as dull as planning a western wedding. Truly, more things unites us than separate us. Shay works in airport security and says he "saves the world every day" but I’m pretty certain he’s just doing it to harass Muslims who massacred with the Sikhs during Indian partition. That’s right, I said it.
"He spends his time throwing water over his brother’s hot wife. He says he sees her like a sister. Yeah, in the same healthy wholesome way Angelina Jolie’s brother sees his sister."
Sunny’s younger brother Tindy is 23 but looks 43. He says he is a virgin which the producer finds hard to believe. I’ve no idea why. He’s not exactly a catch is he? He spends his time building up a non-existent DJing "business" and throwing water over his brother’s hot wife. He says he sees her like a sister. Yeah, in the same healthy wholesome way Angelina Jolie‘s brother sees his sister.
But Shay can’t worry about a brother-in-law with a boner. She’s got dipshit matriarch issues to handle. She invites her mother to the wedding but mommy ain’t trying to hear that. Shay tells us about the meeting between the Grewals and the carpenters five years previously. The wood shavings were flying, my friends.
“Wedding preparations are remorselessly depressing to anyone with a soul or even the fragments of a life.”
Arvinder addressed Shay’s parents across the caste divide. “I came to give your daughter back to you, you didn’t take her… Now she’s mine… from now on she’s my responsibility." And then he turned to Shay and promised her that even if Sunny were to leave her, he never would. PieShay is close to tears remembering it. It’s a lovely moment.
And they are a lovely family. I doubt I’ll be watching much as I really couldn’t give a tuppenny fuck about a married couple getting married again and wedding preparations are remorselessly depressing to anyone with a soul or even the fragments of a life. There are a few more family members to come who I’m sure will be entertaining in their own way. Right now, I’m more about hating the game than the players. TV might want to think about switching it up a bit next time they have a budget and a camera crew spare. Flies on the wall get bored too, you know.
The best thing about it: Shay making the sign of the cross before prayer. Is she angling for a move to Glasgow Celtic?
The worst thing about it: Tindy seems a bit of a nause.
The verdict on The Family: Looks set to make those carpenters look just silly.
Marks out of 10: 7
Imagined: Friday, November 06, 2009