What was it all about?
A dysfunctional family have their problems analysed and a contract is drawn up to resolve the attritional conflicts.
What to say if you liked it
A fine guide for warring watching families on how to soothe their domestic disputes.
What to say if you didn’t like it
Yet another working class family’s individual identity gets swept away by the ceaseless torrent of reality shows that base their oppressive behavioural propaganda on an arbitrary set of middle-class manners.
What was good about it?
• Guinea pigs, sorry, participating family the Hickmans seemed happier at the end of the show in the same way the freshly automated Winston Smith is more content at the conclusion of 1984.
• Dad Jim Hickman’s inadvertent impression of Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard when describing to wife Jayne why he shouted at daughter Lauren. “No, yeah, no, erm, no, well, no, she, not technically because she didn’t go and spend the money, oh no.”
What was bad about it?
• Psychologist Anjula Mutanda’s vexing habit of accentuating every verb in every sentence with a violent head movement you would normally only observe on drivers crashing into a wall.
• Pregnant Jayne was smoking, and to stop smoking until the birth wasn’t part of the family contract they were given.
• The contract arrives in “the post” in envelopes marked sparsely with “The Hickmans”, and no other address.
• Jim’s sagacious and secular perspective on the wider world when he finds the TV taped up as a penalty for violation of the contract. “Third World countries don’t get treated like this.” No, they have the much more benign prospect of having machine guns rammed down their throats as punishment for much lesser crimes than arguing with a daughter.
• Anjula used the horrid marketing-speak phrase “quality time”.
• The lack of value as a television programme – we learned nothing, our lives were not enriched and entertainment was at a minimum.
• Narrator John Thomson pronounced the word “project” in with American intonation “pro-ject” rather than the proper way “proj-ect”, making him sound like Mariah Carey pretentiously outlining her latest feeble album.
• The Hickmans seemed to adhere to the rules of the contract not as a method of propagating mutual domestic harmony, but as a way to spite the little liberty fellow family members were clinging on to.
• If Anjula donned the tweed outfit of an animal farmer and the Hickmans were metamorphosed into swine for the duration of the contract, the true purpose of the whole exercise would have been better elucidated.