“What is totally and utterly beyond me is why anybody in their right mind has another baby,” exhausted new mum Kim (Katherine Parkinson) says at the beginning of the second series of In The Club. “They either have to be insane or have a chronic case of amnesia”.
But two of the mothers we first met in the 2014 drama are doing just that. Jasmine (the very funny Taj Atwal) and Rosie (Hannah Midgley) are pregnant for the second time, having both had their first child at the end of series one. Except that the joy of it all is marred as Jasmine discovers something shocking about her unborn twins and teenage Rosie is having a very difficult time at home.
Kay Mellor’s show about a group of very different Northern women who first meet at antenatal classes was a hit for its warm celebration of female friendship, the bad and the ugly bits of pregnancy and how it’s not a picture-postcard of domestic bliss. After all, humans don’t stop being deeply flawed just because they start a family.
And the second series is packed with that very same uncertainty as the women, and their partners, struggle in the aftermath of pregnancy – or for some, a second pregnancy which is totally different, but just as anxiety-filled, as the first.
When we last saw Kim she was trying to make her relationship with partner Susie (Tara FitzGerald) work despite having strong feelings for their mutual friend and biological father of her baby. It’s still as messy as it was then, but now Kim and Neil (Jonathan Kerrigan) are properly together and Susie has also moved on. Except that Kim has had absolutely no libido in the nine months since her baby was born, and all she wants to do is “go to sleep, have a cup of tea and a chocolate hobnob.” Is it just exhaustion, or is it because she has unresolved guilt about Susie?
Meanwhile 40-something Roanna (the excellent Hermione Norris) is still with the much younger Simon, who she’d left her husband for at the start of the last series. While the couple are going strong, the sheen of new romance has dulled as Roanna is stuck in a damp cottage trying to cope with a new baby while attempting to rebuild her relationship with her adult children.
One of the best series one storylines centred around Diane (Jill Halfpenny) whose husband got into so much debt that he – calmly, apologetically, desperately – robbed a bank. With two adopted children and twins, Dianne is now effectively a single parent, with Rick (Will Mellor) in prison for several more months. It’s hardly a dream family life, and a great gulf is forming between them.
With the jump to series two, these characters have new, even more complex lives, but what hasn’t changed since 2014 is the dose of humour sitting alongside the heartache and tension. A young surrogate mum pipes up in the antenatal class, “it’s nice to help out and I get all my payday loans sorted in one go”. Fair enough, eh? And the women’s tales of their post-pregnancy bodies are told with real warmth and comedy.
But best of all, what remains from the first series is that the women are still a harmonious, non-judgmental and supportive group of friends. Kay Mellor’s drama could have been centred around a bunch of females at each other’s throats, trying to outdo one another for the most well-behaved baby or the swankiest buggy. But this is a far more realistic, entertaining and often moving look at female solidarity in the face of motherhood.