Peter Kay stars in Danny Baker's autobiographical 70s sitcom
Cradle to the Grave is a semi-fictionalised version of Danny Baker's autobiography Going to Sea in a Sieve covering his life growing up in Bermondsey, South London, during the 70s. Fleshed out and co-written for television by Jeff Pope, who has form turning true life tales into TV and movies (including Cilla, The Widower and Philomena).
Ostensibly it's Danny's story but, the two opening episodes at least, spend as much screen time with the head of the household, his dad, Fred Baker (aka Spud) played by Peter Kay. A wheeler dealer who always has a scheme or two up his sleeve, the family home often packed to the gunnels with welly boots, bedding or toy dogs. His long suffering wife, Bet (Lucy Speed), dreams of a better life for her and the family. Fifteen-year-old Danny (Laurie Kynaston) is more concerned with teenage kicks and young lust. A time when the right trousers could make all the difference in a lad's life.
It takes a while for the story to get into it's groove. The first 15 minutes taken up with random snapshots of 70s clichés (Radio Rentals, big collars, garish wallpaper) to evoke, then hammer home, the retro setting. Kay plays it as a broad comedy and the accent he's adopted is slightly distracting. Whereas Danny's story starts to meander more into vaguely more serious territory when he realises he's too immature to handle a real emotional crisis. However even this is swept under the carpet and glossed over within five minutes.
These dramatic moments feel slightly out of place, crowbarred into a sitcom that is more concerned with teenagers desperate to cop off or get sloshed. Although a sex ed class with Tim Key is a comedic highpoint.
Cradle to Grave premières on BBC Two, Thu 3 Sep, 9pm.