How Mum creator relit our love for sitcom

From BBC - March 7, 2018

Stefan Golaszewski has written two of the BBC's best-received sitcoms of recent years. Him & Her took viewers into the lives of 20-somethings Steve and Becky in their cramped flat in London.

Mum - starring Oscar nominee Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread) - is pulling in viewers with its painfully tentative romance between recently widowed Cathy and old friend Michael.

Golaszewski says an ambition is to change the way female characters are written on screen.

He grew up in Chingford in London's north-eastern suburbs. So far, his work has strayed from there only rarely.

Until its final series, Him & Her did not move from the small flat the central characters shared in Walthamstow. The first two series of Mum have been set nearby, in leafier Chingford (though the show's exteriors are actually filmed in Croxley Green in Hertfordshire).

At 37, Golaszewski has now become a Hertfordshire resident himself, moving recently to Harpenden with his wife and two small children.

Golaszewski says he's often frustrated at how TV portrays female characters.

"After Him & Her four years ago I wrote a few other bits and pieces but I came back to the sitcom again. As a structure and a format it can contain a great deal of popular appeal. But by the nature of the subjects you explore it has the capacity for depth too.

"When I first started writing Him & Her I was interested in the structure of each episode but nowadays with Mum I am more caught up in the structure of the whole series. I am finding the longer arc much more interesting.

"One of the ideas behind Mum was that I think the way TV - and society generally - presents and regards women over a certain age did not seem truthful.I wanted to look at someone who's reaching a stage in life where our culture would probably regard them as washed up. But why should they be?

"It's always bothered me and, in a different way, it was also there in the Becky character in Him & Her (played by Sarah Solemani).

"Becky was my deliberate attempt to portray a young woman who was sexually interested through desire not need. She has an active will which is in no way problematic. In fact it was often her boyfriend Steve (Russell Tovey) who could appear the less confident one. I was trying to undermine the traditional way that relationship might be written."

Golaszewski says Mum (already recommissioned for its third and final series) tries to be realistic about falling in love.

"Whenever you watch a film or a drama, the truth is often short-changed essentially for the sake of plot. On screen people fall in love incredibly easily and incredibly quickly. Actually it's terribly difficult.But I am interested in the minutiae of falling in love: I wanted to watch it happen in a glacial way."


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