Mercado on TV: How the ABC remade Mother and Son, revamping the characters in a busy first episode

Mother and Son might run the risk of being seen as too woke

The decision to remake Mother and Son (Wednesday on ABC) is pretty unpopular, but why shouldn’t this classic be remade for a new audience? The original was over 40 years ago, so a couple of generations have never heard of it, and that title explains perfectly what this sitcom is about.

It’s also clever to see the new Maggie (Denise Scott) having a very different backstory to the first Maggie (Ruth Cracknell). No longer a war widow, Maggie is now a hippie who met the love of her life while travelling, resulting in two children of African heritage, Arthur (Matt Okine) and Robbie (Angela Nica Sullen).

Mother and Son: Too woke…too soon?

So far, so good, and I’m also good with changing the sex of Arthur’s (Garry McDonald) sibling, meaning he is no longer a conniving dentist (Henri Szeps), but now a loving lesbian married to Liz (Virginia Gay). Some fans of the original will probably roll their eyes at this and Mother and Son might run the risk of being seen as too woke. 

For the record, I believe in and want more on-screen diversity, whether it’s women, people of colour, the LGBTQIA+ community or anyone living with a disability. However, this often works better if it’s slowly rolled out, and allowed to happen organically after the audience has warmed to a show’s premise.

A great example of how to do this well is RFDS (Tuesday on Seven). It has a cast that is just as diverse as Mother and Son, but it wasn’t noticeable from the start because they kept some things quiet. Originally, Harris (Jack Scott) was a likeable but gaffe-prone male nurse but then halfway through the series he casually disclosed he was gay. He then met a bloke in the most unlikely of situations and by then the entire audience was rooting for them to get it on.

Mother and Son could have kept Liz (Virginia Gay) under wraps for a few weeks, and maybe it would have been funny to spring her on an unsuspecting audience. Instead, she is brought in during a very busy first episode which even includes a pointless moment where Arthur (Matt Okine) gets berated for not knowing the Aboriginal name place for Canberra.

The good news is that Mother and Son improves as the weeks go on, with ambitious storytelling that doesn’t restrict itself to an indoor set with a studio audience. It even inspired me to re-watch the first episodes of the original Mother and Son (iview) and some of it has not aged well. Therefore, I will be fascinated to know what others think of this remake, so forward your reviews to our TV Gold podcast. (email: [email protected])

There is only one other TV tip this week because it’s another brilliant Brit hit. The Sixth Commandment (Thursday on BBC First) is a riveting true crime drama featuring incredible performances from UK legends Timothy Spall, Anne Reid and Sheila Hancock. 5 stars, don’t miss it. 


Read more Mercado on TV here.

Mercado on TV

Welcome to TV Gold: Mediaweek’s weekly TV podcast

Our name is new and so is the email address asking for feedback and questions – [email protected].
Listen now on your favourite podcast platform for 30 minutes of TV reviews and recommendations every week from Mediaweek’s Andrew Mercado and James Manning.

Listen online here, on the LiSTNR app or on your favourite podcast platform.

Regular weekly episode: Mother & Son, The Sixth Commandment, Outback Farm, Painkiller

Two big shows this week – first up is the reboot of Mother and Son (ABC/iview). Starring Matt Okine and Denise Scott, the Aussie sitcom created a debate in this episode with Andrew and James having very different opinions about the first episode. Next is a drama that the hosts expect to be amongst the best TV of the year. The Sixth Commandment stars Timothy Spall, Anne Reid and what could surely be a BAFTA-winning performance from Eanna Hardwicke as the very creepy Ben. Don’t. Miss. This. Show.
Also on offer this week is Outback Farm (7mate/7plus) with narration by, wait for it, Jason Donovan. Finally, Andrew looks at a new drama about the opioid crises in the US, Painkiller (Netflix).


Don’t forget the TV Gold episode: Inside The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

TV Gold takes you inside the biggest Australian drama of the year, and now a massive global hit, Prime Video’s The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. Join Sarah Christie (Prime Video) and Jodi Matterson (series executive producer) as they talk to Mediaweek’s Andrew Mercado and James Manning about adapting the bestseller and finding the key cast members – from Sigourney Weaver and Leah Purcell to Asher Keddie and Alycia Debnam-Carey. They reveal all the wonderful Australian places where the series was shot and talk about the special effects that created one of the iconic locations.
Listen here.

Email the hosts and tell us what you have been watching. The good and the bad. Emails to: [email protected]

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