While watching the ABC remake “Son and Mother,” co-written and starring Matt Okine, my mind pogoed between two thoughts: “What an original!” And “Don’t reflect too much on the folly of assessing beloved productions, especially when they’re as good as Atherden’s classic venerated masterclass in proto-Costanzian squabble, perhaps Australia’s greatest sitcom.” It is a dilemma to not be’d folly, reflecting on the predecessor’s reinterpretations when any new iteration should be afforded elbow room to find its own groove.
Ruth Cracknell’s performance as Arthur’s mother in “Lemon-Sucking Demeanour and Devilishness” was absolutely flawless, leaving Maggie and her sister in awe. It was as if she effortlessly portrayed a thousand different characters, each one more captivating than the last.
Maggie, who is still pondering whether Arthur is mentally stable, doesn’t seem to realize the obvious connection to the key thread of the story, which is the character he witnesses. Oddly enough, this episode was written by Okine, who doesn’t allow his character to show any signs of being a getting or bit compos mentis. Later, it is revealed that what Maggie drinks appears to be a bottle of cleaning liquid. When a potential buyer arrives at the family’s home, Maggie shuffles her way into the outdoor laundry to stay out of the buyer’s sight. In this remake, Maggie is not just a domestic whiz like Arthur but more of a manchild, partial to smoking reefers and playing video games, just like the character Denise in the new Scott McDonald’s.
In the first four episodes covered by this review, the multicultural show tends to organically emerge dialogue about the characters’ heritage and culture, with a particular focus on specific ethnic communities. However, instead of explicitly highlighting this aspect, the show understates it. Arthur, the new protagonist, is of European and Ghanaian descent, raised by a white Australian mother. In this world, suburban life is no longer dominated by white bread.
Despite the lackluster remake, I kept watching the show as it grew on me. After finishing the first episode, I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but it kept me entertained. Despite Arthur’s plans to sell it, my sister won’t share the family home with Mother and her two sons. It’s obvious that there are two things she won’t do: go anywhere and sell it.
The significance of its signposting, the camera revolves around the urn center. Director Neil Sharma, from Heartbreak High, starts capturing a quick series of images with Maggie’s slippers walking along the floor, hitting a piece of chess and breaking the ground. An urn and framed photographs are on the mantelpiece. Now, the modern variations have often superseded the format that visually fussier and busier, which is detrimental here. Old-school sitcoms typically involved few settings and were performed in front of a live audience.
During these moments, when jokes fail to resonate in a difficult and intense comedy show, Arthur attempts to revive a rooster with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Later, Maggie enters the naked lounge room, with the camera positioned behind her buttocks at one point. The remake feels particularly forced, especially when it relies on gags and gross-out visuals. In contrast, the original Son and Mother effortlessly delivered fast-paced and witty dialogue. Unlike the million times I’ve seen similar gags, this one involving a person’s ashes feels unique and requires me to watch more shows and films on this subject.
The genius of Cracknell and McDonald is now even more apparent, as others have performed in their shadows. But let’s talk about a poisoned chalice. The Son and Mother, the titular characters, do a good job of bringing charisma and likability. The best moments of the play focus on the interpersonal dynamics and back-and-forth between them, which is where the new Son and Mother film, like the original, excels. The pleasures of the original are given in a pared-back fashion.