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The Family

Posted By Off The Telly On Tuesday, September 9, 2008 @ 12:01 am In previews,upfront | Comments Disabled

The Family

The Family

“There’s nothing remarkable about this family at all, except one thing…”

So runs John Simm’s narration at the top of C4′s keenly anticipated new fly-on-the-wall series. Very much posited as a successor to Paul Watson’s 12-part documentary of the same name – which followed the fortunes of the Wilkins of Reading over two months in 1974 – this series, unbelievably, proves itself equal to the task.

Filmed around the clock over a period of 100 days, cameras bring us into the home of the Hughes family in Canterbury, Kent. They’re defiantly ordinary (although, with a penny or two going by the size of their house) and very likeable.

The opener focuses on two strands. Firstly, mum Jane’s upcoming 40th. “I couldn’t sleep – because I’m old,” she says. “I’m getting old! I don’t want to be 40… can we turn the clock back now?” Secondly, and more potently, we also follow the continuing conflict between Jane, husband Simon and 19-year-old daughter Emily. The teen is constantly spending nights in clubs, calling in sick to work, and stomping around the house, removing herself from all family activities. “Emily! Em! You’re doing that thing where you’re missing out again!” shouts Simon up the stairs, as Jane’s birthday unfolds in the kitchen.

There’s real drama -”I don’t know who the bloody hell she thinks she is – what have we raised?” (Simon again) – but also moments of real affection. The Hughes’ 14-year-old, Tom, is openly loving to his parents, and there’s a heart-warming sequence put to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline.

Most of all, there’s the messiness of family life. A terse encounter with Emily – which is interrupted by two mobile phone calls – ends when Dad asks: “Shall we stop now? Because we’ve got roast duck for dinner.” And, as you’d expect, there’s no real sense of closure. Despite an afternoon spent mucking about with her mum and singing pop songs together, Emily still opts to go out on the town, ruining a “nice” day. Simon and Jane seem powerless. “I don’t know what to do,” he says.” She craves independence but won’t let go… of us.”

Clearly the best programme screened so far by C4 this year, The Family starts on Wednesday 17 September at 9pm.

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