I remain a little conflicted about Single Father having now watched the second episode. Is it really about bereavment or is the accidental death of mother of three Rita the starting point for a mystery story?
In this episode Dave (David Tennant) starts digging around in deceased Rita’s personal diaries searching for the identity of the father of his former girlfriend’s first daughter (who also lives with the rest of family). And – as with all good dramas – Dave is going to get more than he bargained for. And we know that because of the “Next Time” sequence at the end of the episode. (What on earth did we do without the ‘next time’ bit – oh yes, we had cliffhangers … I remember now.)
The simmering tension between Dave and his former girlfriend Sarah (Surrane Jones) reminds me that this is a romance (the programme description on the BBC website makes it clear what this story is: ‘relationship drama’). On that basis I find myself left wanting, possibly because I’m still expecting this to inform me about some of the emotional responses and thought processes experienced during bereavement.
At the moment it feels like we’re focussed more on a love story than on grappling with something really quite difficult and hugely challenging. It might be that I only have these expectations because of the links on the programme support page taking visitors off to bereavement support.
It’s a point picked up on the BBC’s TV blog about Single Father. Writer Mike Ford provides a description of the inspiration behind the drama but the lack of detail on how it was research leaves that bereavement box unticked for me. A commenter on that blog had this to say:
… after watching i feel it was wrong in so many ways …. was it written taking in real life feelings and aspects from families who have ACTUALLY lost people-mothers, fathers, wifes, husbands. OR was it written by someone who wants to write a drama that ‘he’ thinks will make people cry and feel sorry for them!??
Another commenter – ‘Widower’ – went further to explain what points had been missed in reflecting the experiences of those who have suffered sudden loss.
Is it the age old question of it not being possible to reflect a common experience? That we all would behave differently in a myriad of different circumstances? Possibly.
Having said all that, the characters are hugely engaging. Dave’s sister is – frankly – a judgmental pain in the backside. She would get my back up. Thank God her husband Robin (played by the brilliant Mark Heap) provides a convincing conscience. He also gets one of the most touching lines in the entire episode: “Can we also have the dog?”
On a personal level, I can’t stand the character of Sarah. As a viewer I keep pushing her away, in the firm belief that she is risking what little stability Dave might be able to claw back amongst the fallout. Mind you, there is another way of regarding her: she might actually be offering the very stability he needs. Is that a sign that us (the viewers) are still grieving for Rita – wanting her back? If it is then maybe within the conceit that is TV, maybe it does tackle bereavement. I could just do with a bit more – something a bit weightier – I suppose.