TV Review: Motherland – Last Christmas

With Anna Maxwell Martin and a shirtless Oliver Chris, Motherland – Last Christmas is a real festive treat, until it remembers it is often the blackest of black comedies

“I’m only here for the free sausages”

Christmas specials for TV comedies can sometimes be a real mixed bag, a case of treading water dramatically whilst some festive shenanigans or somesuch are imposed on the show. And there’s an element of that with this year’s festive episode of Motherland, surtitled Last Christmas, as we revisit the domestic chaos of Julia, Liz, and Kevin as they inevitably end up together, with bonus Meg and Amanda for good measure too.

The latter two are perhaps a little shoehorned in here, a victim of the difficulties of finagling a situation to bring everyone together in the school holidays. Thus their minor plot strands feel a little one note, Meg disappointed in her expensive present from hubby Bill and Amanda bristling at the ice-cold barbs from mother Felicity whilst trying to deal with the blended Christmas she’s having with her ex and new partner but Tanya Moodie and Anthony Head, and Lucy Punch and Joanna Lumley all deliver the goods.

The chummy chemistry that percolates between Anna Maxwell Martin, Diane Morgan and Paul Ready remains a joy as circumstances conspire to get everyone round to Julia’s, plus three grandparents, where biting pass-agg humour rules the day as Julia snipes left, right and centre as friends, husbands and mothers conspire to harsh her festive cool – Maxwell Martin very much in her wheelhouse and enjoyably spiky.

And just as you’re thinking so far so Motherland, things take a turn as the writers take us to jet black in this dark comedy and as the stakes are considerably raised, the show really does pull this audacious swerve off. Actors as fine as Maxwell Martin and Ready, plus Morgan’s rapier-sharp dryness, carry us through with aplomb and though there’s dicey moments aplenty, you can’t help but feel Christmassy at the way it all falls out in the end. Great stuff.

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