Mrs Merton and Malcolm: The Complete Series (TV)
R2 - United Kingdom - Network
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (7th November 2008).
The Show

In 1999, following the success of the spoof talk show The Mrs Merton Show (BBC, 1994-1998) (featuring Fast Show and The Royle Family star Caroline Aherne as the beflustered housewife-come-television presenter), the BBC commissioned a sitcom revolving around Mrs Merton’s home life with her son Malcolm (Craig Cash, another alumnus of The Fast Show).

Written by Aherne, Cash and the playwright-comedian Henry Normal, the resulting situation comedy was entitled Mrs Merton and Malcolm. It ran for six episodes and was originally screened in March of 1999. The BBC have not repeated the series since its first screening and has not previously been available on home video. However, fortunately for fans of the series Network have released the show on the DVD format in the UK.

Like many classic British situation comedies, Mrs Merton and Malcolm is situated within a domestic setting, and again like many British situation comedies the character of Malcolm is a manchild in the manner of Frank Pike (Ian Lavender) from Dad’s Army (BBC, 1968-1977), Lenny Godber (Richard Beckinsale) from Porridge (BBC, 1974-1977) or Frank Spencer (Michael Crawford) from Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em (BBC, 1973-1978). At the age of 37, Malcolm still lives at home with his parents, including the barely-considered Mr Merton, and displays the interests of a child, including building model aeroplanes. However, the show attracted some criticism for referring to the character of Malcolm Merton as ‘backward’: somewhat bizarrely, the show received complaints from the mental health charity Mencap (see Viner, 1999: en), which is odd considering the longstanding tradition of repressed and childish characters in British situation comedies. The show also proved controversial for its implication that Mrs Merton was repressing her son’s adulthood: an article in The Independent stated that Aherne and Cash ‘conspire in a deadpan realism that makes this idyll of repressed adulthood seem unbearable. As a gas ad, this was amusing; stretched to 30 minutes, it's a Freudian tragedy’ (Hanks, 1999: en). Likewise, The Guardian referred to the show as ‘like a fifties commercial for Mothers [sic] Pride but there is a peculiar undertow of unease’ (Banks-Smith, 1999: en).

Each episode within the series takes place over a single day, often beginning with Mrs Merton awakening her son Malcolm and ending with her tucking Malcolm into his bed. The mise-en-scene within the Merton home refers to the idealised images of family homes in the late-1950s and early-1960s. The humour is often dark and ironic, leading Time to refer to the series as ‘the most disturbing show on television’ (quoted in Viner, 1999: en).

This is a welcome release on the DVD format, especially considering its absence from the BBC’s schedule since 1999.

Video

The series is presented in its original screen ratio of 1.33:1.

Audio

The series is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo; there are no subtitles.

Extras

The disc contains no contextual material.

Overall

Mrs Merton and Malcolm isn't quite a classic British situation comedy, but it is one of the stronger British sitcoms from the late-1990s. Although sadly bereft of any contextual material, Network's DVD release is recommended for fans of Aherne's brand of humour or, especially, the Mrs Merton character.


References
Banks-Smith, Nancy, 1999: ‘A stag night, then the ‘ead ache’. The Guardian 23 February, 1999: en

Hanks, Robert, 1999: ‘Television Review’. The Independent 23 February, 1999: en

Viner, Brian, 1999: ‘Time for a heated debate’. The Independent 29 March, 1999: en


For more information, please visit the homepage of Network DVD.

The Show: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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