Christmas TV & Raised by Wolves

Radio Times ChristmasFor years now in December I’ve bought the Radio Times festive double edition and eagerly circled my pick of the TV on offer. I really don’t know why I continue to do this. In early December, red pen in hand, I am not perturbed by the fact that I’ve planned to watch three overlapping films, but by the time the 20th rolls around I’m likely to have forgotten whatever it was I circled.

Here’s a sample of what enticed me in this year’s Radio Times, up to Boxing Day:

Emma, Sightseers, The Young Victoria, The Snowman, The Snowman and the Snowdog, Gregory’s Girl

I only made it half way through Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers, which sadly was not as funny as I’d envisaged, though I do admire the concept of everyday irritations being exaggerated into motives for murder, and it is in places an uncanny depiction of British domestic tourism. I didn’t even sit down to watch the others.

Writers/actors Alice Lowe and Steve Oram in Sightseers

Writers/actors Alice Lowe and Steve Oram in Sightseers

Of course the circling me pays no heed not only to clashes but also to  buying presents, preparing food or visiting relatives – and academic work is pushed far back into the crevices of my mind. When circling I behave as though I have an endless amount of time to sit in front of the television.

The fabulous Elisabeth Moss in Jane Campion's Top of the Lake

The fabulous Elisabeth Moss in Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake

Once Christmas day arrives any DVDs received as gifts are far more appealing than anything on the box (the Harry Potter films AGAIN! Really?! Of course they are great but this seems a lazy cop-out of programming to me). This year it’s BBC’s Top of the Lake, the first three episodes of which I devoured in quick succession on Christmas evening.

Since I’m rather an Austenphile, the adaptation of P. D. James’ Pride and Prejudice sequel  Death Comes to Pemberley did manage to tempt me back to live TV last night (review to follow once it concludes).

I also cast an eye over Channel 4’s Raised by Wolves, which documents the lives of a family of home-educated children living in a Wolverhampton council house. Maybe I’d hate it if Caitlin Moran wasn’t involved (come on, the woman is hilarious), but the pilot is genuinely entertaining. It’s really nothing we haven’t seen before; it’s been compared to Shameless, and the Wolverhampton family on which it centres are highly reminiscent of families like the Kellys in BBC’s Waterloo Road.

Caitlin and Caroline Moran with their on-screen counterparts

Caitlin and Caroline Moran with their on-screen counterparts

Although Raised by Wolves is inspired by Caitlin Moran’s own childhood (she wrote the screenplay with her sister Caroline, or ‘Caz’ to those of you familiar with How to be a Woman) it is set in the present day. This decision is probably wise, considering that the relatively successful ‘90s-set My Mad Fat Diary will be returning to e4 for a second series in February. Caitlin Moran was 15 in 1990, and retaining this era would have made for samey or competing shows.

A slick opening (again reminiscent of Waterloo Road) shows convincingly attired schoolchildren flocking down the road as the home-educated protagonists look on. But the main appeal of Raised by Wolves is the dialogue, sometimes witty and often outrageous, such as a series of jokes about ‘mum’s big (water) butt’, which are realistically drawn out for far too long by Germaine, who is rather too pleased with herself. Sadly so is the script, and as a result the episode provides a 25-minute showcase for the actress playing Germaine (Helen Monks), the character presumably modelled on Caitlin Moran herself.

6Other than all-too recognisable bickering between Germaine and the unfortunately named Aretha (it sounds a bit like urethra) there really isn’t a lot going on. Although an over-extended sketch introducing the characters and their world is acceptable fodder for a pilot, in order to succeed the show will need much more narrative thrust.

Germaine/Caitlin functions mainly to shock the other characters with her frank commentary on her vagina and menstruation, with Alexa Davies as Aretha playing a straighter character continually exasperated by Germaine’s boisterousness. This could tire quickly. Their mother Della (Rebekah Staton) is the most intriguing and best-performed character, feeding her children’s bodies with cheap crap food and their minds with great works of the twentieth century (copies of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Ted Hughes’ Crow are glimpsed).

Keep your eyes peeled to see if Raised by Wolves reaches its potential.


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