The Kennedys is the sitcom from comedienne and author Emma Kennedy, based on her book recounting her childhood experiences in the late 1970s, – The Tent, The Bucket and Me. Emma is also known to a lot of people as “TV’s Emma Kennedy”, so-named during the Richard Herring-headlined radio comedy show, That Was Then, This Is Now. And now that TV’s Emma Kennedy is on TV, life has come full circle.
The series begins with Emma aged 10, brilliantly played by Lucy Hutchinson, stating that staying out all day to play was like living on the Death Star. Without the stormtroopers. Or the evil. And how her mum Brenda (Katherine Parkinson – The IT Crowd, Humans) is a ‘modern woman’, which means she’s allowed to get away with never cooking dinner or dusting; and that dad Tony’s (Dan Skinner – House of Fools) hobbies “include sausages and finding a parking space in Stevenage town centre on a Saturday morning.”
She recounts that her mum says neighbour Jenny (Emma Pierson) is half-baked, and Tim’s (Harry Peacock) a bit under-done, which means they’re perfect fo reach other. Together with best friend Jane (Trixiebell Harrowell), everything’s perfect except for the fact she can’t get into the Jessop Square park fort because she doesn’t know the password, aka Secret Whisper, to get in.
That was a hook on which to hang the episode, but it had plenty more to offer, such as the fact that Brenda wants a dinner party because it’s new and because ‘people in Cosmopolitan magazine have them’, to which Tony replies: “That’s not a dinner party. It’s an advert for Scotch.”
She wants lasagne – something else that’s relatively new, and tasks Tony with cooking it. He responds, in conversation with Emma, that doesn’t know what goes with lasagne – “Mash? Chips?” This is a good point and left me wondering the same thing. There’s nothing that sits well with lasagne other than more lasagne.
In addition, Brenda wanted to invite Tim and Jenny, until she’s reminded by Tony that last time they came round, Tim got drunk and ‘fell onto her tits’, which he then mimes. And when they go to see their friends and Jenny’s upset because of Tim’s behaviour, Brenda tells Tony: “Say something!” He pauses and blindly comes out with: “Malcolm Macdonald’s had a terrible season for Arsenal, hasn’t he?”
It was like Cradle To Grave, except that it was funny, and with perfect comic timing from everyone concerned. And it made me laugh a lot and regularly, balancing humour with drama. So, the only thing they share is that they’re set in the ’70s.
I also can’t put up shelves. And I recognised Harry Peacock’s voice from a number of adverts, so when he’s discussing the contents of a pasta packet, it sounds like an advert 🙂
Music included ELO‘s Mr Blue Sky, plus Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song, T-Rex – Get It On, Plastic Bertrand – Ca Plane Pour Moi, Mud – Tiger Feet, and Edison Lighthouse – Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes.
I didn’t really get what a Secret Whisper was in relation to how a dinner party calamity could turn into a Secret Whisper, but then again, not everything we might think of, at the age of ten, makes a whole heap of sense when we look back upon it later in life.
The Kennedys is a wonderful ensemble piece. I could spend all day detailing and analysing the brilliance of every minute in this (including ‘love soup’), but then that would leave nothing else in there for you to enjoy. And I enjoyed it so much I watched the show again the next morning.
The Kennedys continues every Friday on BBC1 at 9.30pm and the first episode, Secret Whisper, is available to watch on BBC iPlayer until November 1st, and click on the top-right cast shot for the full-size image. As of yet, the series hasn’t been announced for release on Blu-ray and DVD.
Episode 1 Score: 10/10
Director: Chris Gernon
Producer: Emma Strain
Screenplay: Emma Kennedy
Emma Kennedy: Lucy Hutchinson
Brenda Kennedy: Katherine Parkinson
Tony Kennedy: Dan Skinner
Jenny: Emma Pierson
Tim: Harry Peacock
Jane: Trixiebell Harrowell
Julie: Eliana Sparrow
Pamela: Victoria Elliott
Dee Palmer: Shola Adewusi
David Palmer: Clive Rowe
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.