There are a lot of small-series BBC dramas that come and go with very little fanfare. Usually I think to myself, "Ooh, that sounds good," and forget all about it when it comes along. Single Father would no doubt be one of these, but is helped along by the casting of David Tennant as the titular dad. Dave Tiler finds himself solely responsible for four children when his wife* Rita (Laura Fraser) is killed suddenly in a bike accident. Struggling to cope with his own grief and that of his children, he finds support in Rita's best friend Sarah (Suranne Jones) which starts to turn to something more...
I was a bit tickled when I identified Rita, one of those actresses who once you've identified from two places, pops up everywhere. Laura Fraser was Door in Neverwhere, Kate in A Knight's Tale and Henriette in the BBC's Casanova. (So Casanova and Henriette were reunited at last. And... cruelly separated once more!)
I would probably not have watched this programme if I had realised that Sarah was already in a relationship - adultery stories usually ruin a book/film/tv show for me, and in this case I really didn't feel it was necessary. There were enough conflicts and complications to Dave and Sarah's relationship as it was - Dave had only just been widowed, it was too soon, there were the kids to think of and an ex-wife and another daughter hanging around. That being said, the story and characters draw you in and really make you care, events ripping up your insides until you think you can't bear to watch any more. The cast is superb, acting so well that you forget they are acting at all. Dave's breakdown at the end of the first episode is devastating and I forgot this was an actor, forgot this was the tenth Doctor Who and just broke my heart seeing a man so overwhelmed by his loss and fear for the future. In later episodes I found myself actually shouting at the screen when I foresaw disaster or realised something the characters overlooked.
The kids are excellent, from stroppy teenager Lucy to little cutie Evie, who I just wanted to adopt. They add some humorous relief to the drama, but also have some serious storylines of their own as they come to terms with the loss of their mother in different ways. Lucy is not Dave's biological daughter, and despite his best efforts, feels all alone in the world after her mother's death. Watching the programme after reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, I realised that the girl playing Lucy is just how I imagined Katniss (but Scottish.)
Shown on Sunday nights, I watched the first episode before going to bed, but I think it is better to watch on bbc iplayer (or videoed) than live, as it is not light viewing. I found it quite stressful just to watch it as the story sucked me right in to empathise with Dave. Sleep does not come easily after this.
*It later emerges that Dave and Rita weren't actually legally married but we're led to believe they are until halfway through. I gather that he considered her his wife, but she was a free spirit type who didn't want to be tied down in that way. The writers seem to have changed their minds about this part-way through the story, as I'm pretty sure Rita is called Mrs Tiler at the beginning of episode one, and Miss Morris later on.