Mrs Merton And Malcolm, 1999
Here’s another rarity, when you talk about Mrs Merton you always remember that great chat show. until recently I didn’t realise that there was a spin off show.
Mrs Merton and Malcolm was a one off series of six episodes produced by Granada Television for the BBC in 1999.
Having appeared in her own spoof chat show, The Mrs Merton Show, the character was already known to viewers. During the chat show Mrs Merton would often refer to her son Malcolm. However he never made an appearance.
The first time we saw Malcolm was in a series of ads for British Gas, which became the forerunner to the sitcom that was to follow.
As with so many sitcoms over the years the show was generally well received. However it did run into criticism.
Critics did not warm to Malcolm. Some felt the character to be a semi-serious depiction of mental illness or a sufferer of infantilism, whilst others suggested that there was something incestuous about the relationship between Malcolm and his Mother.
Criticism wasn’t just restricted to the Malcolm character. Some critics also felt that Mrs Merton dominated her invalid husband, who in the show was completely bedridden and mute. As such it was felt he barely existed as a character, except as a lump under some bed sheets. Her one-sided conversations with him give the impression that his condition suited her lifestyle perfectly well.
Finally Malcolm’s lack of interest in his Father’s condition and a lack of a laughter track (quite common now but unusual at the time) lead the critics to label the show unbearably bleak.
The writers defended the show insisting that their intention was simply to create an absurd situation for comic effect.
As a result of the criticism, a planned Christmas special was abandoned and instead the writers decided to concentrate on other projects. Those projects would be a second series of The Royle Family, this as we know was far better received.
Each episode follows a very strict format.
Following the course of a single day, episodes began with Mrs Merton and Malcolm having a conversation over the breakfast table. At the end of the day she puts Malcolm to bed and then has an eerie one-way “conversation” with the silent Mr Merton.
Caroline Aherne – Mrs Merton
Craig Cash – Malcolm Merton
Brian Murphy – Arthur Capstick
Steve Coogan – Variou voices, Vicar in episode 6
Producer: Glenn Wilhide
Directed By: John Birkin
Original Transmission Dates: 22nd February 1999 – 29th March 1999