September 20, 2008

Family’s Miss-Fortune

By Paddy Shennan

IT started slowly and looked about as old hat as a poor, battered and bruised old hat could look.

This was The Family (Channel 4, Wednesday) - 34 long years after the groundbreaking series of the same name on BBC1.

And although I was wondering how many viewers may have switched off by the first ad break, a low-key opening gave way to a programme which grew and grew in interest.

There is no voice over.

There is no script.

There is no obvious playing up to the cameras by the participants.

And there are no cynical, Big Brotheresque stunts.

All that's left are the everyday dramas of family life - and, so far, it's been much more absorbing than any amount of time spent watching Big Brother or one of countless reality shows for ex- celebs.

The latest fly-on-the-wall guinea pigs are theHughes family of Canterbury, who, for some foolish reason, agreed to be filmed around the clock for 100 days.

The results are being shown over eight one-hour programmes - and one family member, in particular, may already be having big regrets.

If 19-year-old Emily doesn't require counselling after watching this early footage of herself back in a few years time (if, that is, she has grown up by then), I'd be amazed.

By turns indulged and shouted at by her parents, Simon and Jane, Emily makes Kevin The Teenager look like a well-adjusted, polite and selfless young man.

Life on Planet Emily couldn't be more comfortable. She lives rent- free in a nice, middle class home with her nice, middle class parents, who seem powerless to stop her throwing regular sickies by day and going out bar and club-hopping by night.

Why was she going out at 11pm, despite supposedly suffering from gastroentritis?

"Because I want to."

What did she say when her mum-who already looked to be on the edge of a breakdown on account of her fast-approaching 40th - told her she was fed up with it all?


There was a touching scene when mum and daughter (I'm sure the other three children, including the grown-up daughter who lives down the road, will get more of a look-in in the coming weeks) sang a Kate Nash ditty while lying side by side - but the harmony didn't last.

It had been a happy mother's day, but Emily decided to end it by going out again. Cue exasperated dad - who wanted her to tidy her room instead - threatening to bag up his daughter's belongings.

All in all, one of the best dramas of the week!

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