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Monday, 3 June 2013

Meet The Paradise Family of ITV's Love & Marriage


There are two things about ITV's latest comedy drama Love & Marriage that set it apart. Firstly, it's set in Coventry (can't even remember the last drama to be set there) and secondly it features nice little segments where our main characters chat to an invisible camera about the state of their relationships. The talking head segments give the series the feel of Modern Family or The Office and are carefully woven into each episode to counteract the story on-screen. Writer Stewart Harcourt told me, "When I first started the writing the show they were the first things I wrote. Conversations or interviews between married couples and I liked them a lot. It felt really fresh". This device also allowed the cast to improvise under the guidance of director Debbie Isitt.  On the face of it the Paradise family are just exactly like your average family. They bicker, tease and perhaps take one another for granted but at the root of the series and of the family there is a great deal of love. Director Debbie Isitt says "It's about couples within a family. It's an obvious idea but I think it is quite unique."


Pauline Paradise (the always brilliant Alison Steadman) is the matriarch of the Paradise family. She's reliable, loveable and often predictable. When Pauline retires from her job as lollipop lady at the local school she starts to view her life, and particularly her relationship with husband Silent Ken (Duncan Preston) in a very different light. The cast is awash with well known faces. Aside from the brilliant Alison Steadman, Celia Imrie plays her loved up sister Rowan and Larry Lamb stars alongside as Rowan's boyfriend Tommy. Fans of Gavin & Stacey who are expecting a Pam & Mick reunion should forget it now as Larry and Alison were keen to stress their new roles were not at all similar. When asked about reuniting with Alison, Larry said, "It's a whole different vibe. When they first called me about it I thought, that's weird I'm going to be doing something with Alison again but they said no you're not doing anything with Alison." 


Feeling unappreciated at home, the death of her elderly father acts as a catalyst for the entire series as Pauline decides she's had enough and moves on with her life. She leaves Ken and moves in with sister Rowan. "I should've been a car, If I'd have been a car he would've gone under my bonnet more often!" Rowan has lived a very different life to Pauline. Married three times and now having an affair with a married Man and living in a seven bedroom house Rowan  'married up'  She has found new love with Tommy.  Rowan and Tommy have a rather 'playful' relationship. Lamb describes their the pair as having 'A legitimate affair." Rowan is Tommy's mistress but Lamb says "it is known about and sort of frowned upon but he's not actually sneaking off to do something that his wife doesn't know about. They've got a system of alerts that indicate a change in the status." Alison Steadman admitted it is one element of the script she struggled to get her head around. "There is no way on God's earth I could ever do that!" The two sisters are close but have lived very different lives. Rowan has travelled whereas Pauline married the first man who kissed her, raised her family and stayed the same place her whole married life. Celia Imrie believes the series will be easy for viewers to identify with. "I think it's a very brave thing that Pauline does and I'm sure that there will be some women sitting there watching thinking I could do that."

Though the first episode focuses on Pauline's decision to change her life, the  remaining episodes in the series series will focus on each of the relationships in the Paradise family. The Paradise siblings have their own difficult love lives.


Stewart Wright and Ashley Jensen play Kevin & Sarah Paradise. Kevin is a firefighter, a proud dad, a devoted husband, but essentially a child who depends on both his mum and his wife. He and Sarah met at school, snogged by the bins outside the local takeaway and have never looked back. They’re an ‘ideal couple’. But they will be challenged when Kevin steals money in order to fund his son’s rugby tour.


Niky Wardley and James McArdle play Heather (Pauline's daughter) and Charlie. There is an age group between the two and Heather is obsessed with getting pregnant. Nicky said this about her character,
"She’s a bit of a mess. Unfortunately, she is plagued by insecurities about her marriage and herself. She keeps worrying, “Am I young and attractive enough for my husband?” The sad thing is that he absolutely loves her, but she can’t see it because she so haunted by demons. Then someone presents himself to her who she thinks might be a better match. It’s a shame because she may be walking away from something really good. But her insecurities pull everything apart."


The other Paradise relationship is that of younger son Martin (Corrie's Graeme Hawley) and his wife Michelle (Zoe Telford) The couple met at University and have been together ever since.  Michelle got pregnant immediately and has hardly stopped since – so they have five children, not enough bedrooms, space or money. Martin loves his family but has a niggling feeling that he’s not quite living the life he wants…or getting the esteem he deserves…so when the opportunity to swap roles with Michelle comes up, he grabs it. Michelle goes back to work and Martin leaves his job as a primary school teacher to go home, look after the kids and fulfill his lifelong dream of being a writer.

Graeme Hawley admits he was immediately drawn to the series. "What I was instantly struck by was the fact that it’s a beautiful, heart-warming family piece, written with a tremendous amount of love and care. Stewart has done that without being schmaltzy or cod, which a lot of dramas in this area find it difficult to avoid. It has real heart and soul. It also has a great ensemble cast and a great director. Martin and Michelle have been swept along by life and end up with the largest family in Warwickshire. The show is a very honest look at someone who is clearly good at being a dad and husband and loves his wife and children, but he is easily prone to messing up – as are we all."

Love & Marriage has a relaxing and warm tone and is well observed. I know from my set visit in March that the cast had a great time filming the series and that comes across on screen. It is completely believable that these characters have known one another for years. The series balances comedic elements with the more real life aspects of well and I'm sure it'll find an audience who will cheering on The Paradise clan.

My interview with writer Stewart Harcourt

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