Mum is an awkward British love letter to difficult families everywhere

Tara Ward watches British sitcom Mum, a show for anyone who has found themselves in an inescapable family mess. 

What’s the story?

Mum is a family comedy seen through the eyes of newly widowed Cathy. The show follows Cathy as she negotiates the first year after her husband’s death, beginning in January on the day of his funeral. As time moves on, Cathy adjusts to her new life while dealing with her slightly unpredictable (aka batshit) family and friends. 

What’s the vibe?

Mum is a slow burn of a comedy, filled with bittersweet, observational humour. It’s a gentle series that subtly celebrates the awkwardness of human behaviour, particularly in times of sadness and stress. Ever forgotten to wear underwear to a funeral? Mum is the show for you.

Luckily for us, there’s no shortage of awkward in Cathy’s world. From her son’s girlfriend sneezing into Cathy’s face to the deaf mother-in-law who doesn’t understand what a buffet is, Mum serves up a variety of quirky characters and uncomfortable moments that anyone with a tricky family dynamic will immediately recognise.

“I’m sorry about the death of your husband. He took so long to die,” says an unfiltered Kelly in episode one. It sounds terrible, but it’s these dark moments that Mum does so well, hitting the ‘embarrassing but funny’ nail on the head over and over again.

What do I need to know?

Harlot’s Lesley Manville is superb as Cathy, the stoic heroine who somehow remains calm in the face of unrelenting idiocy. She tolerates snobby Pauline’s barbs about her garden pond, puts up with her son drinking milk from the carton and leaving it on the bench, and doesn’t flinch when Kelly invites a family of foxes into the house.

How she doesn’t chuck her ironing board at her family in a fit of repressed rage is beyond me: the woman has the patience of a saint.

Cathy is an island in by a sea of lovable idiots; her son Jason and his girlfriend Kelly, brother Derek and his snooty partner Pauline, and her elderly in-laws Maureen and Reg. Family friend Michael (Peter Mullen) is the only sane one amongst them, dependable and thoughtful enough to put the ironing board away without being asked. What a bloke!

Michael says more with one look than Kelly could ever say about her coffee loyalty card, and Cathy and Michael’s quietly blossoming relationship is a highlight of the series.

Anything else?

Mum won Stefan Golaszewski a BAFTA for Best Writer: Comedy, and Lesley Manville was nominated for Best Female Performance in a Comedy Programme. Also, the characters spend a lot of time in the toilet. Not judging, it’s totally fine.

How to watch it?

Season one just dropped on Lightbox, and the BBC recently greenlit season two. Invite your own gaggle of crazy relatives round, order takeaways and sit on the couch in your underpants to enjoy Mum together — or escape to the toilet and watch it by yourself, Cathy won’t mind.

Click below to watch the first season of Mum, available on Lightbox:

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