Holiday time for Maureen and Patricia. A whole week to see family, friends, boyfriends again. A week of discovery … (Radio Times Listing)
Having previously written the first series episode Off Duty, also a non-hospital story, Pat Hooker was clearly the ideal fit for this one. Taking into account all we’ve learnt this year about Pat’s unhappy life with her parents, Home Sweet Home is an obviously ironic statement.
it also proves to be so for Maureen, although her week isn’t quite so bad. Maureen’s homecoming is however an excellent vehicle for Erin Geraghty, whose character this year has somewhat been shunted down the pecking order (Shirley, Pat and Sandra have been the three with the most interesting storylines so far).
Maureen’s arrival at the family farmhouse, set in the middle of the bucolic Irish countryside, has a faint air of tension due to the fact that there’s nobody home to meet her. This feeling of unease is developed when Maureen’s youngest brother, Shaun (Gabriel Kelly), does make an appearance but shies away from her welcoming greeting. That he doesn’t seem to recognise her is a signifier that she’s been away for a while and also that integrating back into the previously tight family unit might not be entirely straightforward.
Kate (Pauline Quirke) is equally unwelcoming, although it transpires that there’s several different reasons for this. Today’s episode is a rare opportunity for Erin Geraghty to use her comic skills – for example, I love Maureen’s delighted first sighting of her younger sister (“Kate!”) which quickly develops into a critical quizzing. “What in god’s name have you done to your hair?”. It may not sound much written down, but it’s a nicely played comedy moment.
Later, when all the family are gathered around the table, there’s another illustration of Maureen’s growing estrangement from her family after she discusses the latest television programmes (Maureen’s mother mistakenly believing that Michael Crawford is a friend of hers, rather than a top television star). This scene also confirms that just about everybody in the seventies could be called upon to do a Frank Spencer impression, although Maureen’s has to be one of the worst.
The main dramatic meat of Maureen’s storyline begins when Michael Doyle (Aiden Murphy) pops his head round the farmhouse door. A smooth-talking Irish caricature, they quickly pick up where they left off (presumably they’d been “walking out” before Maureen left for London). Although it’s not confirmed until the end, the audience no doubt would have quickly twigged that Michael had turned his attentions towards Kate during Maureen’s absence (which explains some of Kate’s distant feelings towards her sister).
Aiden Murphy doesn’t quite convince – in an episode that feels very theatrical anyway, he’s easily the stagiest performer. But at least he’s considerably better here than he was as Hippias in the Doctor Who story The Time Monster.
Although Maureen has sometimes been portrayed as a little naïve, it’s pleasing to see that today she doesn’t fall for Michael’s spiel (I like the way she recoils when his hands begin to explore previously unchartered territory). “Well you haven’t been learning technique like that at agricultural college” is another glorious line from Hooker.
Interspersed with Maureen’s travails, Pat is having an equally dramatic time of it with her family. To begin with, the viewer is called upon to parse the meaning behind the outwardly polite, but obviously brittle, three way dialogue between Pat and her mother, Rose (Georgine Anderson), and father, Lawrence (Geoffrey Palmer).
Big reveals are slowly bubbling to the surface, but they drip out a bit at a time (frustrating for Pat, but dramatically satisfying for the viewer). First we learn that Pat’s mother is leaving her father, although the reason is initially unclear. Both deny that there’s anybody else involved (although we later learn that Lawrence was previously seeing someone).
Rose doesn’t seem to be a well woman. At times somewhat disconnected from reality (telling Pat the same thing several times) as a student nurse possibly Pat should have picked up on these danger signals. The fact that later, at a stifling party, she labels her mother as “crazy” is a tad unfortunate in retrospect ….
Rose’s dream (of going to London and completing her training to join the legal profession) is later offhandedly dismissed as a fantasy by Lawrence. This is after Rose has taken an overdose at the party (following Pat’s “crazy” comment). Incidentally, the off-screen overdose is played in such an understated way that for a moment it wasn’t clear to me whether Rose had left the house in a fit of pique or had overdosed.
It’s interesting how Rose’s delicate mental state (this isn’t the first time she’s attempted suicide, although Lawrence believes the others weren’t serious) doesn’t really seem to engender any more sympathy towards her. Pat is still very much a daddy’s girl, although he’s hardly that admirable a character. The way he dangles a foreign holiday in front of her (with the promise that he’ll then find her a job more suitable than nursing) is an example of the controlling nature which lurks beneath his affable surface.
There’s plenty to chew on throughout Home, Sweet, Home. For example, Pat’s distant conversation with an old friend, which shows how little they now have in common. It seems to be that both Pat and Maureen have changed and developed considerably since leaving home – and only because they have left their old lives behind.