I don’t think anyone will disagree with me that it’s been one hell of a year, and Christmas is descending on us fast.  So it seemed completely appropriate to be watching a show about people who’ve had a hell of a year, too, drawn together at Christmas.

Annie and Will have gravitated back to the home they grew up in, occupied by their young now-widowed stepmother, looking for sanctuary, familiarity, or maybe just somewhere to stay after the wheels have fallen off their respective lives.  Meanwhile, Carol, their stepmum, is trying to figure out life without her husband, and create some kind of normalcy, partly by leaning on Paul, who’s become a months-long houseguest.

As they awkwardly navigate new and old relationships in the two days leading up to Christmas, some pretty big truths emerge, and must be dealt with, and frankly, these aren’t the most emotionally capable people.

Except maybe Paul, who is wise in a kind of idiot savant  way.  He’s somehow charming, completely clueless, and drives Annie initially, and Will more enduringly, nuts with his invasive questions and tactless observations.   This is obviously not helped by the fact that he apparently now lives in the home they see as theirs.

James Cain is an excellent Paul, gangly and noisy but generous to a fault.  Cain also generously gives focus to the other actors; a delicate balance to achieve when your character is the cartoony comic one.  Dryw McArthur is far too like musicians I have known (or whatever),  with self-doubt and self-flagellation under the bravado, never feeling they’re good enough.   Kate Johnstone’s Annie is recognisable, too, the girl who has blown her potential and is trying to figure out what that leaves her (just @me next time, ffs).  And Tabatha Pini-Hall as Carol is incredibly sweet and fragile, trying to be a stepmum and a teacher, but also just being a girl in her 20s who’s grieving and doesn’t have the energy for anyone else.

It was more emotional than I expected, and more funny, and I don’t know why as I’ve found previous shows Cassandra Tse has directed to be consistently both of those things.   She chooses stories about people who are, not broken, or disenfranchised, but definitely out of their depth….  and she leads them back to stable ground with a deft touch and a wry appreciation of the absurd.

I very much enjoyed Homemade Takeaways.   It will be on for a further 8 nights after today, and I rather think it’s a better option to Hallmark Christmas movies, if you’re looking for a little seasonal entertainment of an evening.  Book at Bats.  I’m really glad Whamageddon hasn’t started yet.  Rude, guys.