Last Night’s TV – May Contain Nuts

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Yep, and so does squirrel poo, and this show was the TV equivalent of several bags of it…

The premise for this two part drama is that David and Alice Chaplin, along with their three children, have just moved to a posh residential area of Clapham. There, they soon meet their new neighbours Ffion and Phillip; she’s a snooty but psychopathically social-ladder-climbing Hooray Henry while he’s “acerbic but emasculated.”

In a nutshell – pardon the pun – the Chaplin mater and pater want their daughter Molly to attend the private and prestigious Clapham School for Girls, but they rather quickly realise that she’s just too thick to pass the entrance exam, so amid exceptionally hammy acting of the horror at the alternative prospect – the local comprehensive school – Alice decides to take drastic measures and dress herself up/down as an 11 year old in order to sit the exam in Molly’s place…
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Given she’s ‘boyish’ and diminutive, she reckons she can get away with it; “I’m short, flat-chested, and last year, they charged me half-price at the cinema” she tells her husband, so the ludicrous storyline is set into motion and exponentially, the show went downhill from there on in.

Quite aside from the ludicrous prospect that a woman of 36 could pass for an 11 year old – flat chest and small stature notwithstanding – this was meant to be a mickey-taking exercise at the class of people who’ll go to any lengths to get their kids a ‘good’ education. These are the people who own 4×4’s despite living nowhere near rugged terrain and people who vote Tory etc etc. In the ‘80s, these people were Yuppies but I’m not entirely sure what acronym is used these days. But whatever, it’s clichéd, over-used and overacted in this show.

One of the show’s producers, Lucy Robinson, had this to say of the programme:

“Every parent worries about their children’s education, it’s a national obsession. With parents moving house to try to get into the right catchment area, financially bankrupting themselves to pay exorbitant school fees or even finding ‘God’ in the hope of getting their child into a faith school, it’s also a subject that’s ripe for satire.

“We’re not making a judgment on any educational system, but we are pointing out that social pressure, fear and blind panic aren’t the best basis for choosing a school for your child”.

Surely that’s one of the most condescending and patronising statements ever issued about a show? Are ITV so conceited that they believe that a ‘comedy drama’ of this ilk – and I use the word ‘comedy’ reservedly – is going to make ambitious parents suddenly step back, look at their lives and say, “Dang it, ITV was right; so sod it, we’ll let the kids go to the local school and stop being pretentious wannabes. Canapé anyone?”

And quite apart from that, anyone who’s mental/driven enough to attempt to pass themselves off as an 11 year old to cheat their child’s way into a school needs psychiatric attention, not second rate, forced, rushed and overacted comedy-drama.

Despite a cast who tried hard, too hard mostly, and some witty one-liners such as Ffion’s take on the local school which was, “They should bulldoze the whole place and drive them over the border into Lambeth. It worked for the Israelis” and “You just can’t get running spikes for children under five”, this show was a big fail.

It was also creepy/paedophilic rather than funny when Alice’s husband David found it a turn on that she was dressed in her daughter’s school uniform. It was perhaps the fact that from a distance, and if you were slightly myopic, you could’ve believed Henderson as Alice was a very young girl that made this not a socially acceptable titter at the cliché of men fancying women dressed as schoolgirls but instead, a rather, “ewwwwwwww gross” moment.

The only light on the horizon comedically speaking was the Chaplins’ cross dressing son, but even that marginally amusing factor wasn’t enough to carry this show. Needless to say, I won’t be tuning in for part two.

What did you think of it?

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.