Being Eileen. Copyright: BBC
Being Eileen

Being Eileen

  • TV comedy drama
  • BBC One
  • 2011 - 2013
  • 7 episodes (1 series)

Family-based comedy focussing on Birkenhead's Lewis family, particularly recently widowed grandmother Eileen. Stars Sue Johnston, Dean Andrews, Elizabeth Berrington, William Ash, Julie Graham and more.

Press clippings

The last in the series of the Sue Johnston-led family comedy. It's the day of Liam's pirate-themed birthday party, and he is terrified of pirates. Everything is going to plan, until Paula (Elizabeth Berrington) picks up a cordless drill and all hell breaks loose. Which is less exciting than it sounds. Eileen's friends arrive to save the day and Ray (William Ash) gets ready for a rare visit from his parents, while Maurice uses the occasion to butter up Eileen. It hasn't been the subtlest of comedies, but the cast were great.

Julia Raeside, The Guardian, 11th March 2013

Writer's Blog: From Lapland to Being Eileen

I've really enjoyed exploring the characters much further than I normally would in a play or a single drama.

BBC Writersroom, 11th March 2013

Looking for a clean, warm-hearted laughs? BBC1 has made viewers work for them, scheduling this family fare in a deathly slot where you need to stay awake past 11pm to see a whole episode. It's almost as if they regret commissioning it. They needn't worry: while Being Eileen doesn't start any comedy fires, it's solid, likeable and peopled by extremely good comic actors. Sue Johnston is the titular granny, supported by Dean Andrews, Julie Graham and the terrific Elizabeth Berrington.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 23rd February 2013

The enjoyable series continues tonight with a friend encouraging Eileen (Sue Johnston) to join a group of local widows for emotional support. Meanwhile, Paula (Elizabeth Berrington) and Mandy (Julie Graham) set up rival classes in the latest keep-fit dance craze, Ay Carumba, and Ethan shows signs of being a future judo star.

Michael Hogan, The Telegraph, 15th February 2013

Sue Johnston on ageism in TV & why she'll never retire

Television can be a tough business for women of a certain age and Sue Johnston, who turns 70 later this year, isn't taking anything for granted.

Olivia Buxton, The Mirror, 14th February 2013

Being Eileen is a spin-off of Michael Wynne's Christmas drama Lapland, about a Merseyside family finding healing and reconciliation on a Christmas jolly. Now it's been more tightly focused on Sue Johnston's character, a widow wistfully hankering after some grander meaning in life. It's all right, I guess, if effortful implausibilities for comic effect aren't a deal-breaker for you. But I'm not quite sure why the spinning off was felt to be necessary.

Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent, 5th February 2013

Not much happens in Being Eileen, but being a downbeat British situation comedy, it doesn't matter. The point is the interplay of authentic characters in banal situations. Under the pen of Michael Wynne, the results are funny and touching.

It helps that the recently widowed Eileen is played by Sue Johnston, the nation's favourite matriarch. She is a genius at marrying tenderness and a light touch, from The Royle Family to Waking the Dead. There is possibly too much in Eileen borrowed from Barbara Royle, but we can stand to watch it over and over: if you remember the brilliance of her doing the housework to Lou Bega, then it's fine to watch a reprise here to Motörhead. This is classic British comedy territory, finding a deep well of humour in sadness and it was very enjoyable.

Wynne first wrote about these Birkenhead people in 2011's one-off comedy drama Lapland. Eileen has two married children, and both have two young kids of their own. The family units crackle with banter: the trick is to stop children sounding like wisecracking adults, as they did in Diff'rent Strokes, and instead make them sparky foils for the comedic grown-ups.

There are glorious moments. A mad, sad woman in a graveyard sings happy birthday to her dead husband while two of Eileen's grandchildren spontaneously join in, to the horror of their mother. A desperately lonely meals-for-one chap gives a speech in a supermarket about how we are deserted in our old age, creating a hum of disquiet in the cold meats area.

It's not as depressing a situation as Steptoe or Porridge nor are the characters as mired in working class immobility as the Trotters or the Royles, but it's of the same lineage. Being Eileen deserved far better than a miserable slot after the 10pm news, particularly when we were offered only a repeat of Outnumbered at 9pm. Most peculiar mama, as they say on Merseyside.

Adrian Michaels, The Telegraph, 5th February 2013

Being Eileen review

The main flaw in this comedy seems to be the characters. William Ash is a good actor but has been given such a tedious, one-dimensional character in Ray that I dread seeing him onscreen.

UK TV Reviewer, 5th February 2013

'She's phoned me from her bag again,' says Paula of her mother Eileen, setting the tongue-in-cheek tone for this spin-off comedy series from 2011 Christmas drama Lapland. Eileen is feeling her age and determined not to go quietly into the night, so she heads to the planetarium to gaze at the stars - has she gone off her head? Sue Johnston shines as the matriarch, orbited by fellow TV stars Elizabeth Berrington, Dean Andrews and William Ash.

Metro, 4th February 2013

This is a full series spun-off from Lapland, the festive com-dram one-off about the titular Eileen (Sue Johnston) and her sprawling Merseyside family, coping with life after her husband dies. Instructions for use: simply rub beloved TV actor between both palms for approximately 10 seconds and place next to a framed photo of a smiling dead husband. Within minutes you will have an effectively warmed heart that can last up to 30 minutes. Do not deviate from instructions on pack. Repeat as required.

John Robinson, The Guardian, 3rd February 2013

Share this page