Written by Standard Issue


Some sons do ‘ave ’em

TV’s given us some truly odd mother-son relationships over the years. Here are some of our favourites. If that doesn’t make us weird too…

Photo: HBO.

Photo: HBO.

Livia and Tony Soprano, The Sopranos

Let’s put it this way: when Tony Soprano goes to smother his mother with a pillow, you’re kind of rooting for him. A passive-aggressive, manipulative martyr who’d rather lick a dog’s bumhole than say a kind word about anyone, Livia Soprano is a glorious monster.

The first two seasons of David Chase’s masterful mob drama establish Tony’s ma as the mafia boss’s worst enemy. Despite his best efforts to be the dutiful Italian son, Tony finds himself belittled, unloved and the target of a hit – thanks to the woman who pushed him out of her birth canal seemingly only to punish him for every wrong she’s ever been done.

Here, she’s in fine ‘let’s just get your face under this cushion’ form as mother and son talk nursing homes. Wait, sorry, it’s not a nursing home – it’s a retirement community.

Lucille and Buster Bluth, Arrested Development

Lucille Bluth is a terrible mother. So much so she’s managed to guilt her kids into never telling her, even if they regularly unleash behind her back. But, while her older children have managed to escape her (to varying degrees), her youngest son Buster remains tied to her apron strings. Or fur coats. Or whatever. He’s completely messed up, is the salient point.

Not only does his mother become like a girlfriend to him, his girlfriends become like his mother. All of which is spectacularly creepy and ridiculously funny. Zip-up time. *shudders*

Gillian and Jimmy Darmody, Boardwalk Empire

In this Prohibition-era drama set in a nascent Atlantic City, the most fascinating and tragic relationship is that between Gillian Darmody, played with divine, disciplined serenity by Gretchen Mol, and her son Jimmy (Michael Pitt), conceived when she was raped as a 12-year-old.

She and her adult child share a tender, damaged intimacy, their relationship distorted by her gnarled sense of love and sexuality. Her confused, flawed devotion to her son is expressed in an unsettling display of physical intensity that, tangled up in a yearning for comfort and security, goes way too far on at least one occasion. It’s icky and heartbreaking, and laced with panicky violence.

Joanna Clore, Guy Secretan and Martin Dear, Green Wing

Surely one of the most beautifully icky, excruciatingly delivered mother-son triads on telly.

Joanna Clore (Pippa Haywood) is the bitter HR director at Green Wing’s East Hampton. She’s mother to the insufferable Guy Secretan (Stephen Mangan*bites fist*) and drippy Martin Dear (Karl Theobald). Guy’s dad is Swiss ski instructor Fabien Leclerq, who Joanna had a tryst with when she was 15, and Martin’s is a man called Donald Twat. Course.

Photo: Channel 4.

Photo: Channel 4.

Joanna keeps her relationship with Martin a secret, on account of him being a drip. Oh yeah and has sex with Guy, after pursuing him for ages, unaware that he’s her offspring. But in typical Green Wing style, there’s no ‘oh no she actually didn’t after all’ about any of it. There’s even a tape.

Peggy and Phil Mitchell, EastEnders

If your mum slapped you round the chops as often as Peggy seems to have done to Phil “KAFF WHAT ‘AVE YOU DONE TO ME?” Mitchell, you’d have to pause for thought with regards to her behaviour. But when Peg – God rest her soul – wasn’t slapping Phil, she was weirdly flirting with him on tours of the Thames or redirecting slaps at his many, many wives.

Photo: BBC.

Photo: BBC.

It would be fair to describe it as a dysfunctional relationship, with Phil apparently miffed by the fact she appeared to love his brother Grant more (you’re in your 50s, surely we’re beyond this). He also believed until this year’s ‘big reveal’ (that she’d framed Eric for an armed robbery to get him aahht of her pub and away from the kids) she’d stood merrily by as his ne’er-do-well father routinely kicked seven shades of shit out of him as a child.

He should just be thankful he’s not poor old Sam, no one seems to love her very much.

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Written by Standard Issue