Since garnering the Christmas number one last year Military Wives have become the in thing so it was only a matter of time till somebody created a drama about them and ITV obviously jumped at the challenge. Homefront is written by former soap scribe Jan McVerry, who has written for Coronation Street as well as Emmerdale and Brookside, as well as being produced by Kim Crowther also a Corrie veteran. The central focus of Homefront is on four women all of whom have husbands, partners or sons fighting in the war in Afghanistan but unlike with the real life military wives here there’s no singing at all however there is a bit of sexy dancing.
This sexy dancing comes via Nicola Stephenson’s slightly tarty mum-of-two Louise who is putting on a little webcam show for her husband Joe who is currently out on tour and is played by Warren Brown who has made the seamless transfer from policeman to soldier in only one week. When this dance is interrupted by some of Sam’s friend Louise goes out on the town with some of the other military wives namely Antonia Thomas’ Tasha. Tasha is much younger than Louise and is already married to Matt, who we are told is in Afghanistan for another 122 days, and already has a son Alfie to look after.
Matt comes from a military family with his brother currently serving alongside him and his father now retired it is insinuated that he didn’t want to become a soldier but he had very little choice about the matter. Tasha often clashes with Matt’s mother Paula about how best to look after Alfie and also the state of their relationship with the two not really gelling at all in this first episode. Finally we are introduced to Claire Skinner’s Claire who is the new partner of the company’s Major Peter Bartham and has to look after his daughter Millie when he’s away which is easier said than done when she’s sneaking off every five minute to have it off with married men despite being only fifteen. In addition Claire struggles to get through to her own son Sam who seems lost in this new world and she also finds it hard to get out from the shadow of Peter’s late wife Angela. Luckily Claire and Louise bond in this first episode while later Claire also is able to come to Tasha’s aide leading them to set up a central relationship between the leading ladies.
Having never lived as I’m not a family member of anyone in the military I wasn’t sure how accurate the events in Homefront actually were however I feel there was a large amount of emotional manipulation throughout the piece namely the scene in which we are to guess which of our families is to find out that their soldier patriarch has passed away. In this we see the army car drive past and two characters hearing knocks on the front door at the same time with one finding out that their loved has passed away and the other simply receiving a parcel. To me this just seemed a little distasteful and I would’ve rather just had the news delivered straight up without a big build-up to it. With Crowther and McVerry’s background a handful of the characters do seem like they could’ve come from one of our much-loved serial dramas such as tart-with-a-heart Louise, who I feel would make a brilliant barmaid at the Rover’s Return, as well as the interfering mother-in-law Paula. Though the programme does seem to have good intentions I did find Homefront to be a tad on the tacky side often lapsing into cliché throughout its hour-long runtime though thankfully it is saved by some strong performances.
One of these performances came from Antonia Thomas, who matured as an actress while playing Alisha over three seasons of Misfits, and now brings a down-to-Earth nature to the emotionally fraught Tasha. Thomas plays Tasha as someone who has had to grow up far too fast and has become a mother and a wife while her other friends can still go partying every week without anything to worry about. In addition Thomas is also able to handle the more emotional scenes very well and in one of the final parts of this first episode she really shines standing up to her mother-in-law in a way I didn’t expect. Though we’ve seen her play a harassed mother before here Claire Skinner’s Claire is quite different from Outnumbered’s Sue as here she’s having to raise two teenagers almost single-handedly. Skinner gives us a character whose new relationship means she has been thrust into a community of which she has little experience and also has to manage a fifteen year old girl who doesn’t hold in the highest of regards. Of the other major characters I felt that Stephenson did the most to make her character likeable despite her coming across as a bit of a stereotype while Clare Higgins was also the perfect choice for the interfering mother-in-law.
Homefront definitely has its heart in the right place however too much of what I saw here felt clichéd and over-the-top while McVerry’s script never really made me believe that these women existed in the real world. It may well be that Homefront is fighting a leading battle as the realities of war are a lot more dramatic and emotional than those portrayed in this drama as we’ve seen on the news on an almost daily basis as well as in documentaries such as Young Soldiers and Our War. What Homefront does have going for it are the performances from the lead actresses, especially Thomas and Skinner, whose characters will obviously become an unbreakable trio in the next few weeks and maybe by the last episodes we’ll see them become a choir of sorts or then again maybe not.
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