By Will Barber Taylor
Greg (Christopher Eccleston) and Marie have been married for nineteen years, when, seemingly out of the blue, Marie walks out on him and her three children – the last taboo of parenting. Episode one, told from Greg’s perspective, follows Greg and their kids as they struggle to comprehend their mother’s actions. Greg attempts to maintain normality as he juggles work at Farrell Motors, raising his children and coping with the trials and tribulations of dating again. But will he ever be able to move on when he is trapped in the past? This touching and intriguing drama will take audiences on a rollercoaster of ever-changing emotions and allegiances. Multiple timeframes, viewpoints and flashbacks tell Greg and Marie’s story and force viewers to confront their own truths. How can two people that loved each other become so opposed? Can a child learn to forgive their mother for leaving them? And why would Marie make such a shocking and significant decision to change their lives and divide their loyalties forever?
Come Home is the latest offering from the BBC and Danny Brocklehurst for the consumption of the British public. Brocklehurst has previously worked on Clocked Off, an excellent series that also featured Christopher Eccleston, as well as The Driver starring David Morrisey. Brocklehurst’s style tends to lean towards the televisual offspring of the kitchen sink drama of the 1950s and 60s – anchored in realism and intending to be different to the current TV fodder of detective dramas or medical dramas. The problem is that sometimes, attempts to appear realistic neutralise any attempts at story.
The “plot” for Come Home is that Greg and Marie are separated. That’s it. There is no real substance to the story and as such this makes any dramatic impetuses weak and flabby. This isn’t helped by the characters that we see in the drama itself. Greg, who is the focus of the first episode is… bland. He appears to be a perfectly nice bloke but lacks any defining features; he has nothing that distinguishes him from any other character in a drama like that. Marie, who is seen hardly at all throughout the episode is again… bland. There is nothing interesting or different about that, nothing that grabs the audience’s attention. Brocklehurst attempt to create character through a use of minor moments, such as Greg’s diatribe about vinyl but it just falls flat and adds nothing significant to our understanding of the characters or the plot. Brocklehurst ends up using the crutch of “different points of view” and “flashbacks” as a means of pushing the story forward and it isn’t engaging in the least; it is a TV trick that has been used so much in recent years, in The Missing, Requiem and a plethora of other dramas that it just feels like a lazy way to dump exposition onto the audience.
The acting from the cast is reasonable, not particularly outstanding but not bad either. One questionable choice though is to make Christopher Eccleston look like he’s been thrown into a sewer for a week and give him a Northern Irish accent. Now, whilst the drama is set in Northern Ireland there doesn’t really need to be any reason for Eccleston to have a Northern Irish accent. Why shouldn’t he? Because, well his accent is awful. There is no getting around it – he sounds like a man trying to do a really bad impression. Eccleston is a great actor and it just seems a shame to make him look awful – I get that it’s meant to show how “badly he’s taken his wife leaving him” but he just looks dreadful. This is particularly apparent given the contradiction between script and reality; Eccleston is due to go on a date and his son comments says, “You look like an estate agent” and yet Eccleston looks nothing like an estate agent, unless he was an estate agent for the TV’s idea of single parents.
In conclusion, Come Home is not good at all. It tries to be so many things – funny, realistic, engaging but fails to do any of these things. Brocklehurst isn’t a bad writer and the actors aren’t bad actors but the lacklustre nature of the script, the enforced gloom (again, to help with “realism) and the general unoriginality of the venture means that it is probably best avoided.
The first episode of Come Home airs tonight on BBC One from 9pm to 10pm.