In the very first season of Offspring producers threw in a crazed ex-boyfriend of Nina’s who was constantly blowing shit up, purely as a move to keep males interested in the storyline (thankfully he didn’t last too long).
It nods to the research that females control the TV remote in the home, even more so when it comes to Drama.
Having given us 5 seasons of the emotive and sometimes knockabout House Husbands, Nine now offers their counterpart, of sorts, in Bad Mothers. As the title suggests this is a somewhat darker world from writers Rachel Lang & Gavin Strawhan.
There are 5 friends whose kids all attend the same primary school (it looks a lot like the one from HH) and they all reside bayside in ‘Bedford’.
Sarah Pooley (Tess Haubrich) is a doctor, married to restaurateur Anton (Daniel MacPherson). Her best friend is the icy Charlotte (Melissa George) and she is pals with Maddie (Mandy McElhinney) and Danielle (Jessica Tovey), whose husband Tom (Steve Bastoni) is Maddie’s brother.
Sarah has a frosty relationship with personal trainer Bindy (Shalom Brune-Franklin) and is suspicious of her flirtatious behaviour with husband Anton.
But there is trouble in this Bedford community, with a corpse discovered in the opening scenes and a ‘friendly’ fundraiser between gal pals detoured by jealousy. Sarah’s suspicions about what may or may not be going on behind her back see her turn stalker and uncovering truths that will implode her world.
Bonds between women are tested, ramped up and occasionally complemented by lighter touches, largely involving Maddie (Mandy McElhinney) in an inconsequential school mum storyline. The title appears to be a play on words both as murder suspects and as incomplete parents, leaving the ‘likeability’ factor as a shifting challenge.
Tess Haubrich, parachuted into a role after the sudden exit of Jessica Marais, works hard at being sincere despite the very unordinary murder tale. But I’m at a complete loss as to why she is friends with Melissa George’s unlikeable, self-obsessed role, nor especially convinced by a relationship with the under-written role of Anton.
Truth and tone are part of the problems of the opening episode. At one moment it is pitching itself as a domestic melodrama and the next it is a whodunnit with a murder at its core. Is it possible to have both worlds? Sure, Desperate Housewives is the master of the genre with over-the-top storylines crackling with delicious fun. Suburban Shootout from the UK was another with mayhem in suburbia. Big Little Lies does it with domestic violence and a non-linear storyline.
The most “bad” we see these mums in the opening chapter is smoking a little weed, kidnapping puppies and revenge pranks on car windscreens. It’s far too tame and lacks the necessary escapism.
Director Geoff Bennett turns up the pop choons and photographs a glossy, affluent bayside lifestyle to contrast the crime, but there is risk these Nine dramas are all starting to look the same. And should I really care if a character I didn’t know is bumped off in an opening episode anyway (take note Playing for Keeps)?
With viewers overwhelmed in Drama offerings, Bad Mothers really needs to be more heightened if it wants to be distinctive. Cue Married at First Sight.
Is it too late to throw in an ex-boyfriend blowing shit up?
Bad Mothers airs 9pm Monday on Nine.