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The Trouble with Maggie Cole Review 2020 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
Stars: Mark Heap, Dawn French, Emily Reid
Breeders burst scatologically on to our screens, with Martin Freeman proving, if he has to prove anything now, that he’s something of a whiz back where we first encountered him – comedy. It’s an intense, often scabrously funny series about the perils of parenthood, yet as far from Outnumbered – even from Motherland – as it’s possible to get and still have a related premise.
Paul (Freeman) hates his kids. Don’t get him wrong; he would die for them. But it’s just sometimes – rather often, in fact, of late – he finds himself swearing with unaccountable venom and many, many words of the F variety at them. Is there something wrong with him, or is he simply a career-stalled dad negotiating the appalling complexities of conflicting dad advice – be their friend/don’t be their friend; set them boundaries/set them free – in the irksomely fraught third decade of the 21st century?
Daisy Haggard plays long-term partner Ally (and mother to Luke and Ava) no less superbly: it’s surprisingly rare for an on-screen pairing to be able to convince that they actually have S.E.X. with each other, and their tight-knit, witty bitching about rival, “perfect” schoolgate parents is a delight that never flags. Paul and Ally’s basic dilemma is, of course, little more than parents have struggled with for long decades, as mores, and attitudes to children, have changed tiresomely fast – but writers Simon Blackwell, Chris Addison (and Freeman) have taken some not-new premises (the near-crashes when kids wriggle from seatbelts, the quirks of simpering teachers) and dialled them all up to 11. That Tap reference surely is the ideal time to note that Ally’s wayward, charming father is played by Michael McKean: in fact all the supporting cast, including the children and Paul’s father Jim (Alun Armstrong, vouchsafed some drily wonderful lines) are finely cast. Yet it’s to Haggard and especially to Freeman our eyes are constantly drawn: you can see the skull beneath the skin, practically feel the iron band tightening round the head, of Paul. It’s a triumph; but it’s not a cosy watch.
What is unfortunately a cosy watch is The Trouble With Maggie Cole. Its heart might be in the right place but its brain’s in a jar. The title character is played by either Dawn French or, seemingly, Pam Ayres, depending on where the light falls; we’re obviously meant to warm to her, as the well-meaning, nose-poking busybody in a gorgeous little Cornish seaside hamlet, but I’ve warmed more to busy bluebottles. Self-important Maggie, anyway, has spilt the beans, drunkenly, on local radio about six village characters with secrets, and is thus racked with guilt for her pointless gossip. But she somehow seems to have hit a seam of truth about at least two or three, and thus the stage is set for confrontations and reckonings.
The trouble with The Trouble With… is that it’s billed as a comedy-drama, and one of its main sins is that it’s relentlessly unfunny. To say it falls short of The Vicar of Dibley is not a compliment. It might have worked as a simple drama (a big “might”) but as it stands it is a simple waste of a grand cast, including Julie Hesmondhalgh.
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