Bad Mothers
Australian and New Zealand TV

Review: Bad Mothers 1×1 (Australia: Nine)

In Australia: Mondays, 9pm, Nine
In the UK: Not yet acquired

“I’m mad as Hell and not going to take this anymore” may be Network‘s best known line, but it could also be a motto for the #MeToo movement. TV companies around the world naturally want to take advantage of this female anger at the nature of modern society, either (optimistically) because they too feel the rage or (cynically) they want to cash in on the ratings.

Bad Mothers – which is no way related to or as funny as the movie of the same name – airs on the usually female-friendly Nine network in Australia and is co-created by Rachel Lang (Outrageous Fortune, Hyde & Seek, Westside, The Blue Rose, The Almighty Johnsons), so you’d hope the former optimistic answer was the root cause of the show. But if it is rage at societal expectations of mothers to be perfect and self-sacrificing, it’s quite an unfocused rage, one largely directed at other women for some reason.

The show sees Tess Haubrich (Wolf Creek, Pine Gap) playing regular mum Sarah, who’s starting to suspect that husband Daniel MacPherson (Strike Back) is having an affair with his personal trainer Shalom Brune-Franklin (Our Girl, Doctor, Doctor). However, when she turns up at the gym, she spots he’s actually having an affair with her best friend Melissa George (In Treatment, Hunted, Heart Beat). She takes solace with fellow mums at the school her children attend. Cue lots of drinking, setting fire to MacPherson’s clothes, vandalism of George’s car and abduction of dogs.

However, things take a turn when George is found murdered and first Haubrich then MacPherson becomes the police’s prime suspect. Can this group of mums solve the crime and find out who really killed George? And how much red wine will then need to drink together to do it?

Melissa George in Bad Mothers
Melissa George in Bad Mothers

Bad feminism

There is a lot of hate going on round here, but surprisingly little for men. As soon as things get a bit tricky between the married couple because of MacPherson’s having an affair, jokes pop up to deflect the conflict and to turn the problem back onto Haubrich. Gaslighting, maybe, but the show’s real bile always seems reserved for other women.

George, admittedly, isn’t the most popular of actresses in Australia following her un-Aussie rant, but the show and she do go out of their way to make her as unlikable and as anti-female solidarity as possible – a mother more interested in herself than others, who’ll have an affair with her best friend’s husband, who’s rich, spoilt and has a stupid little dog, who never has time for anyone else and who seems permanently medicated/drunk. I mean, obviously, she’s got to be as murder-worthy as possible for as many people as possible, but the show does take the path of least resistance to get there.

There’s also the constant exchange of bitchy lines about physique between Brune-Franklin and Haubrich, and Brune-Franklin’s delight in other women’s misfortune. On top of that, there’s the other women in the group of five (Hyde & Seek‘s Mandy McElhinney and Wolf Creek‘s Jessica Tovey) who are very keen to start metaphorically stabbing away at other women as soon as possible (and vice versa). There’s also the constant one-upwomanship in the mothering. Of course, they may all club together and learn the power of female emancipation and friendship by the end, but that’s not the message yet – or from the trailer for the rest of the series.

All of which makes Bad Mothers less of a #MeToo than it probably hopes, more a Mothers Behaving Badly meets The Bletchley Circle. A little bit of quite tame rebellion, a little bit of solidarity, but mostly women a bit miffed and trying to solve a crime, all to be resolved with a return to something just a little bit better than the status quo was.

Don Hany in Bad Mothers
Don Hany in Bad Mothers

Bad opening

As of yet, we don’t have a real taste for how good the murder-solving aspect of the show is going to be, though. We’ve also lost the show’s best and most famous actress (Gilbert) and haven’t yet deployed the show’s best actor and most famous actor (Don Hany of East West 101/Serangoon Road fame), making this initial episode decidedly inauspicious and alienating.

Things might perk up and become more coherent in later episodes, but as of yet, there’s nothing really to recommend about Bad Mothers. It’s not that funny, it’s not especially taboo-breaking, it doesn’t have much of a message, it doesn’t have any great characters and it doesn’t really advance #MeToo in any way.

Dare I even say it’s… bad?

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  • Trailer for Nine’s Bad Mothers
  • Screen Australia to fund: Evonne Goolagong biopic mini-series, dystopian Sophie’s choice drama Aleph, cleaners join ‘the resistance’ sci-fi drama Oddlands and 1970s ritualised cannibalism drama Seconds

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Every Friday, TMINE lets you know when the latest TV shows from around the world will air in the UK

One very odd acquisition without a date this week, but everything else has a premiere announced.

Acquisitions

Netflix has picked up USA (US)’s Dare Me, an adaptation of Megan Abbott’s novel of the same name. I said odd because there isn’t actually a TV series yet – and there wouldn’t be if Netflix hadn’t agreed to distribute it everywhere in the world except the US.

So no premiere date yet… because it hasn’t been made yet.

Premiere dates

American Soul

American Soul (US: BET; UK: BET International)
Premiere date: Thursday, February 7, 10pm

Drama set behind the scenes of Soul Train, the 1970s US TV show that was the country’s first nationally-syndicated Black music show.

Stars Sinqua Walls, Kelly Price, Jason Dirden, Iantha Richardson, Katlyn Nichol, Jelani Winston and Christopher Jefferson. Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, Bobby Brown, K Michelle, Gabrielle Dennis and McKinley Freeman all guest star.

Bite Club

Bite Club (Australia: Nine; UK: Alibi)
Premiere date: Wednesday, February 20, 9pm

Bite Club follows two detectives who, after surviving a shark attack, join forces to hunt the ultimate predator – a serial killer who is also hunting them. Not only are they survivors but also ex-lovers.

Stars Todd Lasance, Ash Ricardo, Damian Walshe-Howling, Deborah Mailman, Robert Mammone, Pia Miller, Marny Kennedy, Darcie Irwin-Simpson and Dominic Monaghan.

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Delhi Crime Story (Netflix)
Premiere date: Friday, March 22

True crime Indian anthology series. The first season follows the notorious December 2012 investigation by the Delhi Police into the horrific gang rape of a young woman, which reverberated across India and the world. It captures the complexities of the scrutiny, the emotional toll on the investigating team, and their determination to bring the perpetrators to justice in a fraught environment.

Stars Shefali Shah, Adil Hussain, Denzil Smith, Rasika Dugal, Rajesh Tailang and Yashaswini Dayama.

Quicksand

Störst av allt (Quicksand) (Netflix)
Premiere date: Friday, April 5

Swedish Netflix original from the makers of Bron/Broen (The Bridge), based on the book by  Malin Persson Giolito.

A mass shooting takes place at a prep school in Stockholm’s wealthiest neighbourhood Djursholm, a normal high school student, Maja Norberg, finds herself on trial for murder. When the events of that tragic day are revealed, so too are the private details about her relationship with Sebastian Fagerman and his dysfunctional family.

Stars Hanna Ardéhn and Felix Sandman.

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  • The CW green lights: pilots of Jane the Virgin spin-off Jane the NovelaRiverdale spin-off Katy Kenne; a Nancy Drew adaptation; and Lost Boys adaptation
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  • Ten green lights: house-sharing drama Five Bedrooms, with Kat Stewart, Stephen Peacocke, Doris Younane et al

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  • NBC green lights: pilots of widowed dad comedy Saving Kenan with Kenan Thompson and magical workplace comedy Like Magic
  • Trailer for Hulu’s PEN15

New US TV show casting