Family, ITV1

by | Oct 1, 2003 | All, Reviews

Martin Kemp’s golden handcuffs deal with ITV rolls on, and so, therefore, do the dramas with a leading role for a south London wideboy who’s a lot like EastEnders’ Steve Owen. This time Kemp’s back on the wrong side of the law as Joey Cutler, a prominent member of a family whose business is organised crime. If that screams The Sopranos Meets Serious & Organised at you, then you’ve got it in one.

At times it’s hard to tell whether Family is supposed to be serious or funny, with the suspicion that French and Saunders are going to jump out from behind the curtain never far away. The music, gestures and dialogue are, in places, like a Christmas-special takeoff of the Godfather. The Cutlers act like stereotypical Italians, hugging each other a lot and talking about the importance of family, but they show no signs of actual Italian origin. The effect is to create a generalistic association between the Italian and the criminal which real Italians might find deeply offensive.

In episode one, Kemp was acted off the screen by Jamie Foreman, who played his no-good elder brother Dave, just returned from America to a prodigal son’s welcome from their father Ted (David Calder). That wouldn’t have been a problem, except that Dave and Ted had a distinct comic edge, coming across like the thicker gangsters in Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. This suddenly evaporated when Dave killed a man over a perceived insult, raising the possibility that the comical stuff had been there to create dramatic contrast. But it also raised the possibility that they’d got the tone comically wrong earlier on, which on balance seems more likely.

Apart from that, Family was a depressingly routine New ITV drama, a list of boxes (gangster-style neo-Georgian house, attractive wife, kids being groomed for a legitimate life) neatly ticked and ready to be signed off at the next planning meeting. It’s been billed as Britain’s answer to the Sopranos, but it’s actually just a poor, and very obvious, imitation, just as Kemp’s previous show, Serious & Organised, was a poor (and unsuccessful) attempt to recreate 70s cop classic The Sweeney. That’s what happens when you hire the actor first, then start dreaming up roles to fit them

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

01/10/2003

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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