Monday, October 26, 2009

An unexpected fortune

Imagine my shock, no -- my jaw-dropping horror-- at the title screen of the program At Home with the Braithwaites (or should that be "Braithwaite's"). According to the title screen, it should be the latter. Horrors! Apparently the convention of just sticking an apostrophe in now and again, no matter whether it is actually needed, is not just an American invention. Or maybe it's some of that American culture that we're so fond of exporting. Whatever the explanation, I was pleased to see that the next 5 episodes had lost the offending apostrophe, and we could get on with concentrating on the events in the series.

And the events are really worth concentrating on. Allison (played by Amanda Redman -- she of the improbable blue eyes) is a kindly mother of three who spends her spare time volunteering at the nursing home. Her husband, David (the usually adorable Peter Davison), is self-important, pompous and having an affair with his divorced secretary. Their three girls all have problems to varying degrees. Virginia, the eldest, is a self-proclaimed lesbian who has just flunked out of university. Second daughter Sarah has written an obscene poem to a supposedly gay teacher, and is being pushed toward counseling. Instead, she drops out of school to work at a convenience store. Youngest child Charlotte is, well, somewhat odd -- always sneaking around, spying, eavesdropping and generally being a creepy nuisance (although for all her spying, she doesn't seem to uncover many of the family's secrets).

Into the midst of all this, Allison wins £38 million on a lottery ticket daughter Charlotte gave her for her birthday. While her family screams and fusses around her, she decides not to tell anyone close to her that she's won. Instead, she hires one of her friends from the nursing home and a sympathetic accountant and starts a charitable organization. Her goal is to invest the winnings, hire staff to help out on specialized tasks, and use the interest the money generates to fund worthy projects.

There are many complications along the way. The local press know that someone in the area has won the big jackpot, and they are closing in on Allison. After her daughter Virginia suffers a crisis, Allison confides her secret and Virginia launches herself on a spending spree. She gets Virginia a "job" at her corporation, but Virginia is more interested in shopping and speeding around in her new Lotus.

In the meantime, middle daughter Sarah leaves home with the unambitious boy-next-door and sets up housekeeping with him in a run-down flat. Her father tries to get her to come back home, but Sarah knows about his secret dalliances with the secretary.

Eventually, all the secrets come boiling out at the same time (and, in true Eastenders fashion, mostly in public). The first series ends with Allison's family now aware of her win, but there are still plenty of questions up in the air -- will her marriage stay intact? Will Sarah remain at home or go back to the boyfriend? Will Virginia put her mechanical skills to work, or continue to be a waster? Will Charlotte's snooping ever uncover anything juicy?

All those questions and presumably more are eventually answered, since this series ran for 4 seasons. Sadly, Netflix only has the first one so far. I'll have to hope Santa makes a stopover by the UK before he delivers my Christmas gifts this year!

Final Verdict for At Home with the Braithwaites: Four Gherkins, for being an intriguing story with plenty of drama and comedy

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