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Breeders (Martin Freeman/Daisy Haggard) - First two episodes reviewed


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

PARENTING comes under the spotlight in painfully funny fashion in new Sky1 comedy Breeders.

Co-created by Chris Addison (of The Thick of It fame), Simon Blackwell (Peep Show, Veep) and Martin Freeman (who also stars), the series focuses on put-upon parents Paul (Freeman) and Ally (Daisy Haggard) as they attempt to raise their two young children, Luke (George Wakeman) and Ava (Jayda Eyles).

But anyone expecting an updated version of the sweet-natured Outnumbered (which operated in similar terrain) had best think again. Rather, this is very much the Veep version of parenting: shouty, sweary and often completely OTT.

Indeed, there are moments within the first two episodes that push things a little too far, whether it’s hearing Freeman’s dad over-use F-bombs (or even the C-word), or find himself at odds with the law when his wife comes to suspect he may have murdered the kids after one particularly horrendous night of sleep deprivation.

But there are other times (and plenty of them) when Breeders hits a home run and becomes borderline uncomfortable, yet insanely funny viewing. It could almost be holding a mirror up to your own shortcomings as a mum or dad, while hitting the nail firmly on the head when it comes to dealing with the absurd demands/requirements of your kids.

Episode one was full of such moments, as Paul and Ally battled against all odds to get a decent night’s sleep. I mean, what parent hasn’t had to contend with trying to stay calm and nice at 3am, desperately trying to get their children [or child] to sleep.

Or, perhaps worse, to try and contend with the repercussions of a school lecture that has played on the mind a little too much [stranger danger, perhaps, or Internet safety?]. In Breeders, it was about calming the troubled mind of eldest son Luke as he tried to get to grips with the dangers posed by fire – and the possibility of it breaking out while he was asleep.

Paul may have reverted to F-bombs but there were laughs aplenty as he attempted a more nuanced form of reassurance, before dropping himself further into the mire by mentioning things like drowning or burglars!

And then there are those mid-life crisis type moments, as Paul assesses where his life has gone since those heady, youthful days of expressing himself through art.

Or the parents and in-laws, whose constant interruptions and observations create unnecessary tensions and challenges on top of the day-to-day battle to stay afloat [or stay sane]. Going one step further, there’s even a nod to other parents… those ‘more successful’ irritating types who seem to have it together and be one step ahead (or worse, judging you) – something the second episode confronts brilliantly.

Breeders, thus far, has well-defined characters and often very relatable situations.

It only mis-steps when it tries to up the ante and exacerbate the everyday (as in Paul’s brush with the law). Or when it becomes a little too foul-mouthed in front of the kids. And it has to be a little careful in its depiction of Paul, who could easily slide into a bitterness that’s difficult to sympathise with.

But taking even these criticisms into account, Breeders is a blast, offering its own kind of therapy to put-upon parents up and down the land who may have let slip the odd misdemeanour on the road to offering the best start possible for their kids.

Breeders airs on Sky1 on Thursday nights at 10pm.

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