3 out of 5
Created by: Chris Addison, Simon Blackwell and Martin Freeman
covers season 1
At the core of Breeders, there’s a rather brave confrontation – without mincing words or feelings – of the suckiness that comes along with the “joys” of parenthood. This isn’t new information, of course, but presenting it without a constantly filtered reminder of how amazing our offspring actually are and how blessed we are and etc. is rather rare, and belongs solely to a newer breed of TV that’s occasionally learned – especially on some FX / FXX comedies like Better Things – to respect that its viewers can handle such loaded topics without hand-holding.
That’s at the core of Breeders, and, thanks to fantastically nuanced and often hilarious performances by our leads, Martin Freeman and Daisy Haggard, portraying unmarried-but-parents-of-two couple Paul and Ally, it gets to poke its head in to the overriding elements of Breeders, which the scripts (often by co-creator Simon Blackwell) would have as hijinx involving problematic children and swear-happy parents. Breeders is a co-American / UK production, and the drier Brit humor tends to stand in for where a US show might offer more potty jokes, but the attempted bravery of the series’ facing how much offspring and relationships can, truly, change us – occasionally for the worse – is more generally cast through the Judd Apatow-like adult-child veneer: we get to titter at Paul screaming obscenities at his son and daughter, and then fritter between apologies and more shouting, and Ally’s more passive, but equal freakouts, and then the two discussing which one of their kids they’d murder first.
Again, Freeman and Haggard do this in a way that allows us to never doubt their love for their family and each other, without explicitly telling us that, but there’s a sense that different actors would just pitch this as straight comedy without that grounding.
However, the core I mentioned is a definite thing, not just subtext, and Breeders has the potential to be quite brilliant based on the moments that allow this to through – that get at the true tragicomedy of life, facing the lack of true “right” and “wrong” decisions over the course of our experiences. As we get further into the season, past the opening episodes’ need to go for the throat with f-bombs hurled at kids, the characters and their histories get richer and this stuff comes further to the forefront. And I love these actors, and I think they have an appreciation for the subject and the material – Freeman is a co-creator, after all – so it would be great to see the series get a chance to develop into further seasons.