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Thursday, 27 September 2012

ITV's Homefront: Have we seen this all before?

When ITV first announced new military drama Homefront scores of people contacted me on Twitter to point out that this was clearly an attempt by the broadcaster to resurrect housewives favourite Solider Solider.  I’m a little too young to remember the series in detail, though sadly not young enough to have missed the whole Robson and Jerome phenomenon that the series spawned. I’ve never liked Unchained Melody. On the face of it the comparison to Solider Solider is a fair one but Homefront takes the wives and girlfriends points of view. 

There are critics who will say that something like this should not be dramatized and I’m certainly not qualified to comment on how accurately  they have captured the lives of those living without their loved ones but the cast do a decent job with a tricky subject.  The downside about Homefront is that delivers exactly what you’d expect from a drama based on this subject and very little else.

It’s nice to see Outnumbered’s Claire Skinner in a serious role as a new Army fiance who is struggling to come to terms with base etiquette whilst trying to be a good stepmother to her husband’s stroppy teenagers.  Skinner’s character is kind hearted enough but again I found myself willing her storyline to move beyond a new mother struggling to cope with stroppy teens and on to an aspect of army life we’d not seen before. 

My main issue with this opening episode was that I can’t see it offering anything new. The script wasn’t entirely full of clich├ęs and the cast did their best but I felt if you’re going to tackle a sensitive and important subject like this then I believe you need to show it as it is and I got the feeling that Homefront is going to shy away from some of the more difficult realities of base life.

Antonia Thomas does the best job as young mum and army wife Natasha. Tasha lives with her husband’s parents and is the first to receive the dreaded knock at the front door. We are quickly informed a knock on the front door means only one thing. Tasha opens the front door and is told her husband Matt has been killed. To its credit Homefront doesn’t over dramatize this poignant and emotional moment but the reactions of those around Tasha only served to irritate and frustrate me.Natasha’s mother-in-law is one of those stereotypical busy body types who we’ve become accustomed to seeing in these middle of the road dramas.  She’s the sort of character we’ve seen so many times that she could’ve been plucked out of any family based drama in recent memory. She serves as the best example of how annoyingly unoriginal the series feels.

There's some mystery surrounding the circumstances of Matt’s death but even that feels shoehorned in, in an attempt to keep viewers watching and not because it’s going to be crucial to the plot. I may sound a little harsh but it is only because the vast majority of ITV’s autumn drama output has been so strong that I feel a little let down by Homefront. It’s the one that lets the side down for me. I feel they’ve toned the subject down to such a degree that it has become too tame and that means it won’t ever leave you in suspense or shock you at any point. I don’t hate it, I was just hoping for something more, something a little less soapy and bit more gritty. Homefront never seems to try hard enough. Homefront may be a new drama but I felt like I'd seen it all before.


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