The most likeable dramas tend to be the ones that don’t take themselves too seriously, and nothing takes itself less seriously than At Home With The Braithwaites. Based on a cheerfully far-fetched premise (Leeds woman wins £38 million in Euro-lottery), it’s populated with predatory bisexual housewives, dippy teenage mums, spine-free husbands and the dominating presence of a Determined Yorkshirewoman With Brass. It has things to say about wealth, families and relationships, but never forgets its first priority of being an undemanding hour of knockabout fun.
This is the fourth and last series, and in truth it’s probably one too many. The fortune’s been won, lost and regained, and the family have explored every possible way of driving millionaire mum Alison to despair. Now there’s a slight sense of an endgame being dragged out, as Alison and David divorce (messily of course), and daughter Virginia, on the verge of marrying superbitch Megan, rediscovers her true love Tamsin.
It’s still good stuff though, with Amanda Redman wonderfully stately as Dame Alison, Sarah Smart endearingly crumple-faced as Virginia, and Julie Graham convincingly lascivious and scruple-free as Megan, proprietor of a bridegroom-tempting agency (the principal freelance temptress is Virginia’s sister Sarah, who’s also making a synergistic move into the wedding planning business). There’s some lovely dialogue (“you can’t sit down in here without getting a wedding magazine stuck between your cheeks”), the odd summerhouse explosion to liven things up, and quick-zooming, kids-TV camerawork to remind us that it’s all a laugh.
The men in Sally Wainwright’s drama are, of course, either weak-minded fools who should really be kept in kennels, or handsome brutes who can come into the house provided they obey orders and don’t bark at night. This week, Alison turned the screw on her feckless husband (Peter Davison, sporting a slightly suspect Northern accent) as he insisted on a £19 million divorce settlement. She repossessed his home, then his Porsche, then the air in the tyres of his wedding-car fleet, leaving him to bike it back to Leeds. It was cruel stuff but, in fairness, the show has been cruel to everyone in its time, regardless of gender.
The men are pretty much irrelevant anyway, because At Home is an intensely female drama, about what it’s like to have oestrogen coursing through your veins and be surrounded by others in the same condition. That makes it a welcome balance to the majority of TV dramas, which still place women in an essentially male context, not to mention a valuable source of insight for those of the testosterone-fuelled persuasion. And it’s very funny, too.