Monday, March 20, 2017

I Finally Saw "Damned," the Social Work Britcom

I wrote last month about a British television series called "Damned," which featured a team of children's services social workers. There was a lot of interest for this program within the online social work community given some of the early publicity.

However, there was more negative than positive once the series made its premier. There were complaints about the cookie-cutter characters with little depth or originality. There were complaints that "Damned" failed to portray the social work profession with anything remotely resembling professionalism. And there were concerns that it was overwhelmingly dark and depressing.

At the time, I pushed back against the criticism. Keep in mind that I was unable to watch "Damned" because it wasn't airing outside of the UK. But I figured, based off the pre-publicity, that the creators approached the social work profession with good intentions, while also acknowledging our warts. I also figured that they needed to come up with storylines that would entertain the masses.

Last night, I was on Vimeo and stumbled across the program's pilot episode from 2014. I still haven't seen any of the episodes from season one, but I'm left agreeing with the social work critics of "Damned." I'm also wondering why they expected anything different from the first season, after having watched the pilot!

The first four minutes featured the office staff ignoring calls and people pounding at the door while they complained about how nobody would answer the calls. They even turn away a woman who's trying to access the restroom for her child.


We're then introduced to Rose (played by actress Jo Brand), who managed to lock herself out of her house -- with her three very young children left behind. Keep in mind that Rose is 60. At least the actress is. And it's possible that she adopted three very young children. But it's very difficult to imagine that she's the single mother of three children under the age of 5 or 6. Anyway, she's late for work and is struggling to connect by phone with her own mother. So she -- the child services social worker -- leaves her children behind with hopes that their grandmother will eventually show up.

Let's go through the other characters. There's Al (played by Alan Davies), who spends his day planning a skiing vacation, avoiding his former client, and covering for Rose's child neglect. There's Nitin (played by Himesh Patel), a former cop who constantly spars with Al over workplace rules and conduct. There is Denise (played by Georgie Glen), the cold uncaring supervisor who lords over each morning's unit meetings. There is Nat (played by Isy Suttie), the temporary receptionist who's portrayed as incompetent, but who was never provided any training in the first place. And then there is Martin (played by Kevin Eldon), the former co-worker who washed out because of a mental break-down, but who still manages to hang out in the office and take calls when nobody is looking.

Finally, after spending tons of time in the office avoiding phone calls, Rose goes off to investigate reports of young 6-year-olds selling weed at their elementary school. She rescues three kids from a home-based pot farm. But that scene pretty much lasts 1-2 minutes.


Anyway, the pilot ends with two sets of children being hauled into the office by police officers for parental abuse and neglect. Fortunately, Al is around to pull some strings so that Rose's kids don't go into foster care.

I'm still curious about the first season of "Damned" and hope that it will eventually find itself on Netflix or wherever. But I will also be content if that day never happens.

You can watch the pilot for "Damned" at this link.

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