‘Being Eileen’ – Episode 1.1 Review

Being Eileen, the BBC’s new comedy-drama, spun-off from 2011 Christmas special Lapland, began on Monday night.

It would be fair to say that Lapland wasn’t greatly received. Many people said that it was an overly dramatic depiction of a feuding family, considering it aired on Christmas Eve. Less kissing under the mistletoe, more storming off because someone ate the last purple Quality Street. Recently, I read some of the reviews of Lapland and thought that some, particularly Tom Sutcliffe’s for The Independent, were more critical than perhaps necessary – I certainly don’t remember the show being that bad, although I do recall it not exactly filling me with festive cheer.

Giving its almost mainly negative press, therefore, I was surprised to read in October last year that the Lewis family were to be brought back for a full series. The full series in question has turned out to be Being Eileen – which I had hoped would show that its Olivier Award-winning writer Michael Wynne has found his feet with his characters. Alas, however, it has not.

COME ON, EILEEN!

Sorry – I couldn’t resist

Being Eileen’s opening episode involved the eponymous widow (played by Sue Johnston) disappearing on a spur-of-the-moment trip to the local planetarium, despite already agreeing to look after her grandsons Jack and Liam. Cue an exasperated family desperately trying to find her, but always failing to by either Eileen not picking up her phone or by them failing to spot her, and vice versa, outside of the aforementioned planetarium. This went on for around twenty- to twenty five-minutes. Now, it may have been quite funny if it had been confined to five minutes but Wynne seemed to dismiss this possibility, and instead laboriously stretched it to at least four times that! Hence, Being Eileen, as a whole, seemed to drag.

‘JUST A PROGRAMME’

Don’t get me wrong: this show has a star-studded cast of Sue Johnston (The Royle Family), Dean Andrews (Life on Mars), Elizabeth Berrington (Stella), William Ash (Great Night Out) and Julie Graham (At Home With the Braithwaites) but even they couldn’t save it. Just like its festive predecessor, Being Eileen seemed neither to succeed with being a comedy, nor a drama – it was just a programme. I tittered once throughout the whole thirty-minutes and then only briefly at Eileen’s mobile phone ringing during a cinematic screening of a documentary at the planetarium – loudly sounding her ‘Gangnam Style’ ringtone to her disgruntled fellow physicists. That, sadly, was as far as Being Eileen entertained me.

WANTED: CHARACTERISATION

The main flaw in this comedy seems to be the characters. William Ash is a good actor but has been given such a tedious, one-dimensional character in Ray that I dread seeing him onscreen. In fact, the only actor who has been given a rounded character is Elizabeth Berrington (Paula) – the others make the most of their roles but there is little in the script for them to utilise. You’d think that Michael Wynne would at least have put some effort into the characterisation of his lead, Eileen.

 

Perhaps I’m in the minority and perhaps I expected too much – I’ve just read reviews from The Telegraph and even The Independent where Tom Sutcliffe has given it a slightly more positive review than he did back in December 2011. I may tune in again next week to see if I enjoy it any more but until then, I’ll keep my fingers crossed yet again that the show will finally have found its feet.

Being Eileen is on Mondays at 10:35pm on BBC1

What did you think of Being Eileen? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Feel free to comment below or tweet me about this or any other TV show – @UKTVReviewer

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on my YouTube channel.

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