'Patrick Melrose' - TV Review

This TV miniseries of five one hour episodes is based on a series of books by Edward St Aubyn. I didn't find out until after I'd watched the series that they're based - very closely, apparently - on the life of the author. The five episodes are each titled after one of the books: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, Mother's Milk, and At Last.

The title role is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, with Hugo Weaving and Jennifer Jason Leigh as his parents. The first episode begins with Patrick picking up the phone to hear that his father is dead, an occurrence that he celebrates. He flies from London to New York to collect his father's ashes while simultaneously trying to go sober. But his father's death and the events and people that surround it set him on a spiral of drug use.

Cumberbatch is brilliant in the lead. Patrick is a very intelligent guy, who, when he's sober enough, is a decent and caring person. Although he does have a streak of sarcasm a mile wide. But his parents made him a horrible mess (don't worry, the series will explore that in detail). Leigh and Weaving are excellent as his parents: Weaving is particularly convincingly unpleasant. Cumberbatch and the script make Patrick someone you desperately want to succeed, but he stumbles and fails over and over for five episodes, often surrounded by the most despicable people in the English upper classes, because those were the family friends.

This is a comedy, after a fashion. Very black. Many of the people in the series are unbelievably unpleasant (I'm not using the word "unbelievably" for emphasis or effect as I suppose I sometimes do: I mean "I did not believe it"), even when brought to life by some of Britain's best actors. And the humour is drawn from their appalling banter and behaviour, so the laughter is strained at best. And it's clear at the end of the series that it's meant to show that Patrick may finally be on the path to getting his life together, but the journey was incredibly dark and unpleasant and I didn't enjoy it. But it was certainly memorable. Many people will like this: I did not.