This first episode of Channel 4’s Raised by Wolves is a triumphantly confident opening to a series.
Sure, there was a pilot last year, but that is in no way required viewing to get up to speed: it can be assumed that this episode wouldn’t have been much different even if it was the first time we’d met the family.
Caitlin and Caz Moran have created a cast of characters that are immediately identifiable, even if what they are identifiable as is carbon copies of Caitlin and Caz Moran themselves. There’s Germaine (Helen Monks) who, aside from the namesaking homage to Greer, is every inch a teenage Caitlin as we’ve already seen in the journalist’s books, most recently Johanna Morrigan in How To Build A Girl.
Then there’s Aretha (in other words, Caz), played by Alexa Davies who is equal parts object of sibling frustration / totem of worship, rocking what should be a ugly green jumper that declares her don’t-screw-with-me attitude right from the start.
Germaine spends a great deal of her time (as she did in the pilot) lusting after local lug Lee. He’s never going to glance at her, but as far as Germaine is concerned, that’s an entirely irrelevant detail that will be rectified at some unspecified point in the future.
She spends rather too much time prowling around, licking, and eventually inserting herself into the letterbox of desire, before realising her dream man actually lives in the adjoining house. Germaine is the wilfully naïve and eccentric one, presumably convinced that wearing a M&S dressing gown outdoors will give her the aura of both Benedict Cumberbatch and Withnail, while sister Caz has a caustic brutal wit that could destroy all in her path.
Leading the charge is the magnificent Della. Any one of these three could easily be heroines for the next generation of teens.
I’m not going to spend too much time in this review talking about the gorgeous novelty of a comedy series written by two women, about four women, and I certainly don’t intend to in the reviews of the rest of the series. Partially because I don’t want come across as the male hack desperately attempting to wave his feminist credentials (yeah, too late), but mostly because it’s by some distance the least interesting thing to discuss here.
But we’ll give it a moment, if only because it allows us to dismantle the other least interesting thing that usually gets mentioned around these parts: the idea that women can’t be funny. Quite often, anecdotal evidence is put forward that women do a lot of ‘period’ jokes, and not much else. Here, then, is the exception that proves the exceptional: this is a full episode of gags about periods, jam rags, and having to walk down Boots’ ‘Aisle of Shame’. You realise pretty quickly that, far from being an oft-repeated joke, we hardly see this on screen, ever.
Sure, if you’re of a certain age and into your US television, you might remember A Very Special Episode of The Facts Of Life that covered this sort of stuff, but otherwise, it’s remained a secret. ‘I don’t think I want to be a woman, mum,’ wails Molly Risker’s Yoko. Mum Della (Rebekah Staton) understands only too well: ‘No one does, love, but the men are too chicken-shit to handle it, so here we are.’
It’s Della who gets the best moment (actually, she gets all the best moments, plural, which is a pretty neat trick in a programme where everybody is presented with wit and compassion). It’s contained in a moment that’s not funny – with not even a line spoken out loud: just a look, but certainly scripted, a proud, jaw-jutting almost snarling smile when told her daughter has become a woman. So swift you could miss it, but roughly translates as: ‘fuck, yeah.’
Which, frankly, could serve as the two word review for this episode.
Aired on Monday 16 March 2015 on Channel 4.
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