The Most Interesting British Telly Families We Met in 2013

Few people would refute that the holidays are a time for family.  Whether it fills you with anticipation or dread, reuniting with loved ones is a big expectation of the season.  I personally enjoy getting together with my relatives to reminisce and catch up with one another.  A nice meal, a heartfelt exchange of presents and a hug on the way out the door? What’s not to like?

However, when I think about some of the clans I’ve met while watching telly this year, I have to concede that family matters can be complicated.  By now you must know that I have compiled a list of some recent shows that have featured family scenarios, both loving and dysfunctional. 

You just might rethink how mad, or just dramatic, your relatives really are…

Family Tree (HBO). Tom Chadwick (Chris O’Dowd) has suffered a few major blows recently. He lost his job, his girlfriend left him and his family and friends are starting to get concerned. But when Tom’s great-aunt Victoria Chadwick leaves him a box of seemingly random old photos and mementos in her will, it sets him off on a path to discover who his ancestors actually were.

In England, Tom’s quest takes him to a family farm in Derbyshire and a theatre in Hove. 

Family Tree Season 1: Episode #2 Clip #2

And upon discovering a surprising backwards immigration story in his family history, Tom’s search leads him to California where he meets distant cousins, each uniquely quirky in their own ways. Civil War reactors, silent film cowboys and a possible Native American connection take Tom on the adventure of his life and teach him more than a little about himself in the process.

Blandings (BBC). Based on characters by P.G. Wodehouse and set in the late 20’s, Blandings is about a chaotic landed family, very reluctantly headed by the eccentric Lord Clarence Emsworth (Timothy Spall).  Not at all interested in his family responsibilities, most of the estate’s real decisions are instigated by Emsworth’s bossy sister, Connie (Jennifer Saunders).  Though these siblings are often at odds about what is best for Blandings Castle, it is Clarence’s dandy but dim son, Freddie (Jack Farthing) who causes a majority of the pandemonium.  

Blandings, S1

Last Tango in Halifax (BBC). As students Alan Buttershaw (Derek Jacobi) and Celia Dawson (Anne Reid) were star-crossed lovers, separated by a family move and a misunderstanding. Now fifty years later both are widowed each with a grown daughter of their own. With the help of their grandsons, Alan and Celia reunite through Facebook. Their feelings are quickly reignited and the couple makes the decision to do what they should have done a half century ago – get married.

Despite the premise, Last Tango is not just a geriatric love story, but primarily a study of family dynamics. The complicated relationships between teenagers and their parents, grown children and their aging parents, failed marriages and promising new affairs are plentiful in the Buttershaw and Dawson households. And now the two families must find a way to blend together for the sake of their respective patriarch and matriarch. 

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Pramface (BBC). Series 2 of Pramface aired this year and introduced us to a new young “family” of sorts. Jamie Prince (Sean Verey) and Laura Derbyshire (Scarlett Alice Johnson) met at a drunken free-for-all and nine months later were joined by their unplanned but well-loved baby daughter (who is yet to be named). 

We Need a Name! - Pramface - Series 2 Episode 1 - BBC Three

They soon realize that the trick is not just figuring out how to raise a child at a relatively young age. In working class Jamie and upper middle class Laura’s case, it’s even more difficult to merge families of two very different backgrounds into one supportive unit.

The Village (BBC). The Village is an epic story which endeavors to follow the entire history of a Derbyshire centenarian beginning at the start of World War I.  In the first series, young Bert Middleton (Bill Jones) lives the life of a failed farmer’s son. Though fearful of his violently alcoholic father, John Middleton (John Simm), Bert idolizes his older brother, Joe (Nico Mirallegro) and is comforted by his gentle mother, Grace (Maxine Peake).  

When his brother joins the army, however, Bert’s primary protection from his tortured father is removed and the family and the village will never be the same. 

New trailer for upcoming BBC drama The Village starring John Simm

Is there a telly family, past or present, which reminds you of your own?  Is there one you’d like to belong to?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.  And here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year indeed!