TV series review: Starlings, series 2 (Sky1, 2013)
When series two of Starlings was announced I was delighted, because this show was one of the best new things to happen to British TV last year. Series two had a lot to live up to, and I’m more than happy to say that it did.
In the second series, dad Terry (Brendan Coyle) and daughter Charlie (Finn Atkins) work to finish building a restaurant for the eccentric former footballer Rodney (Daniel Peacock). Bell (Rebecca Night) and Reuben (Ukweli Roach) decide to get married after a Wuthering Heights-themed proposal that was so lovely I cried. Jan (Lesley Sharp) goes to college to study creative writing, and her tutor Stephen (Vincent Regan) takes a definite shine to her. Gravy (John Dagleish), meanwhile, takes a shine to his colleague, Coggie (Sydney White), whose visa is about to expire …
Grandad (Alan Williams) tries online dating, only to find love in the form of Molly (Una Stubbs), a lady he happens to meet on the bus. Jan’s nephew Fergie (Steve Edge) battles two ghosts from his past – his narcissistic mother Sandra (Deborah Findlay), and Judith (Cherie Lunghi), to whom he lost his virginity back in Bruges once upon a time. Judith now works at the school where Terry’s half-brother Loz (Matt King) is a substitute art teacher. Oh yes, and Fergie’s organic camp site.
What ends up happening to all of them … you really ought to watch and see for yourself.
The trailers really made it look as if Jan was going to be tempted into having an affair with Stephen. There’s no way that wasn’t the trailer-maker’s intent. “LOOK! MARITAL CONFLICT!!” How it all plays out wasn’t perhaps all that unsurprising, but it was refreshing. Why? Because it didn’t turn into a soap opera cliché. And that’s all I can really say without spoiling it.
Some would probably say that the family relationship is too invented, because “no family really is like that”, but couldn’t the same be said for every other fictional family on TV? The Walker family dynamic in Brothers & Sisters wasn’t really reminiscent of any family I’ve ever heard of, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the show. The Starlings feel like they could be real. Yes, perhaps the concept of “one big happy family living together in harmony” is a little on the far-fetched side at times, but it’s still … why the hell not? They’re far from perfect, and there are plenty of things that mean that they’re just as dysfunctional as everyone else. That they’re not constantly at each other’s throats in one way or another, but actually stick together as a family, feels genuine to me. A couple that are actually happily married, three kids and thirty-odd years later, really do exist in real life, but you wouldn’t know that from watching TV.
A big selling-point of the first series was how full of heart Starlings is. Series two is no exception – and no stranger to fantastically awkward moments either. (Loz, Fergie and Judith … oh the humanity.) There are parts that are incredibly heart-wrenching. (Grandad’s borrowed laptop. Charlie’s injury. Fergie’s letter to Sandra.)
Speaking of Charlie’s injury, HEALTH AND SAFETY WHAT THE HELL!!! You don’t only wear high-vis jackets and a hard hat at a construction site, you have to wear proper work boots! It’s the law!!! Why was she not kitted out, and the site not maintained according to bloody REGULATIONS?! (See 27.3 in The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 or the Construction FAQ of the HSE) If Rodney didn’t know there were laws to follow, Terry should have, as he was the site manager. (Someone please send Terry on an IOSH Managing Safely course already?) So yeah, I call shenanigans on that.
The proposal. Yes, it really did have me in tears, because it wasn’t just a beautiful proposal, it was Reuben’s attention to detail. What did he do? He knew Bell’s favourite novel is Wuthering Heights, and gave her a Wuthering Heights themed proposal. He dressed up in period clothing (read: Heathcliff), had a backdrop made of the moors, and proposed with the Kate Bush song playing in the background. As a book-loving romantic, I can’t help thinking it’s the most beautiful thing a person can do. I’m not even that keen on Wuthering Heights, but if I had been, and my partner had proposed to me like that … just wow. (A Jane Eyre equivalent could be to dress up as Mr Rochester, take the would-be Jane to a horse chestnut tree and propose by saying “I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions. I ask you to pass through life at my side – to be my second self, and best earthly companion.” Ohhh the mere thought gives me goosebumps!) Reuben, you’re a keeper!
On the subject of Gravy and Coggie, I have two words: Green Card. (The Peter Weir film from 1990, not the residence permit.) Can’t wait to see what the third series will bring, but I hope it comes with a happy ending eventually. If he goes off to the States and leaves the show, that would be sad. I like Gravy.
I also like Molly, and it’s nice to see that the older generation too get to fall in love on TV! Going down a generation, I’m less thrilled about Judith, but that’s only because I haven’t quite figured out if she’s just a sly fox or actually batshit insane. I think it’s the former, and is only toying with Loz (or indeed Fergie) for teh lulz. Maybe it will be made clearer next series?
In any case, I love this family, I love this show, it’s down-to-earthiness, and quirky sense of warm humour. It’s rare to find a show where you’re genuinely laughing with someone as opposed to at them. If I ever meet Matt King or Steve Edge, I hope they’ll allow me to give them a hug as a thanks for this show … which is like a big, warm, televised hug with marshmallows on top. There’s never a dull moment in the Starling household.
5 out of 5 suicidal scooters.
(UPDATE 2021: There was never a third series. I’m still pissed off about that.)