The Bad Mother's Handbook

The Bad Mother's Handbook

Infobox Television Film
name = The Bad Mother's Handbook

country= United Kingdom
caption = The Bad Mother's Handbook DVD Cover
format = Comedy drama
picture_format =
runtime = 90 minutes
creator =
starring = Catherine Tate
Anne Reid
Holly Grainger

network = ITV
released = February 19 2007
music = Mark Russell
producer =
related =
imdb_id = 0909010

"The Bad Mother's Handbook" was a one-off television drama based on the best-selling novel: "The Bad Mother's Handbook" by Kate Long. It aired on ITV on February 19, 2007, starring Catherine Tate, Anne Reid and Holly Grainger. According to BARB, the show received strong viewing figures of 6.09 million. [ cite web | url = | title = Broadcasters' Audience Research Board, weekly viewing summaries.]


"The Bad Mother's Handbook" depicts the story of one year in the lives of three women. In this ITV television adaptation of Kate Long's best selling novel, Catherine Tate plays Karen, who is a frustrated woman in her thirties whose whole life and identity is shattered when she finds out a long-kept secret. Holly Grainger plays Karen's clever and hormonal teenage daughter Charlotte, while Anne Reid appears as Karen's mother Nan who is suffering from Alzheimer's. Robert Pattinson [] is also a supporting character as lovable yet nerdy, Daniel Gale. The movie presents insight into the life of motherhood and childhood, dwelling on the themes that no two mothers are alike, but that ultimately love is the most important thing of all.


Karen has always felt disappointed with her life. Although she always felt inspired to be somebody great, she finds herself, in her thirties, divorced and living in an ex-council house. On top of those disappointments, she is having to care for her hormonal seventeen-year-old daughter Charlotte as well as her unwell mother, Nan who tends to drift in and out of reality, with her being a sufferer of Alzheimer's.

Being a learning support assistant, Karen has the chance she has always dreamed of, when headmaster Leo offers her the opportunity to go on a school trip to Paris. With Paris being a favourite destination, Karen can only embrace chance of a temporary escape from the current chaos in her life. However, her current situation is preventing her from going, as Nan requires much attention and care, on top of Charlotte's strange moods. But Karen desperately hopes that ex-husband Steve and the rest of the family will pull together for her sake. But Karen is adamant that she will attend the trip and that nothing will stop her.

In the process of arranging her passport, Charlotte brings Karen’s attention to her birth certificate, where Karen makes the staggering discovery that she's adopted and Nan is not her biological mother. Karen doesn't know who she is any more and feels that she has lost the grasp on her identity. The question aches in her mind: Why has Nan never told her? It's as though Nan's keeping something back, a secret to protect Karen.

During the confusion in her mother's life, Charlotte's also having problems. Having being dumped by her first serious boyfriend, she's finding it hard to concentrate on schoolwork. Charlotte isn't content at all, and now amongst her other distractions, her teacher has presented her with the task of looking after a clumsy new student Daniel who seems to have developed an irritating crush on her. The highly intelligent Daniel has just moved into the area and is feeling friendless, awkward and is suffering from a cold family environment. However, Daniel turns out to be less of a hindrance than first expected and in time to come, appears to be Charlotte’s main source of support.

Meanwhile, nobody seems to understand what Karen is going through. Karen has tried speaking to Nan about her adoption, but with Nan’s mind awry and Karen getting constantly frustrated with her, there are no questions answered. Karen turns to Leo and Steve, but they unintentionally can’t empathise with her or understand her feelings of non-identity. Then a further catastrophe occurs when Nan has a fall. Karen’s trip to Paris is definitely stubbed. Nan however, thinks that Karen has been saved, as they eat frogs legs in France.

Karen’s daughter Charlotte, who she has very high hopes for, has some shocking news. She confides in her new found friend Daniel, and tells him that she thinks she is pregnant with her ex-boyfriend Paul, due to a split condom. He immediately buys a pregnancy test and eagerly waits for the results. Charlotte performs the test and the results are not what they had hoped for. It reveals that she is pregnant. Now Charlotte is faced with the task of telling Paul and her mother.

Before Charlotte breaks the news to her mother, she attends a counselling session, where she seeks advice about whether or not to keep the baby. Meanwhile, Karen starts the process of looking for her birth mother when she attends a meeting at the adoption centre. Charlotte arrives home and lies down on her bed, only for her mother to walk in to see her revealed bump. Karen takes the shocking news badly, as she doesn’t want Charlotte to waste her life bringing up a baby, as she feels she did. Charlotte announces that she is going to keep the baby, with Nan arriving only to stand by her and comfort her. Karen engages in confrontation with Charlotte and says she wished that she had put her up for adoption. She reveals her resentment for Nan, who made Karen keep Charlotte at such a young age, and can now only reminisce about what her life would have been like had she not kept Charlotte. In later months, Charlotte attents the hospital with Nan and Daniel to hear the good news that the baby is very healthy. She arrives home announcing the good news and brandishing a picture of the baby. Karen however, looks disgusted and ignores the comments and the picture.

On Charlotte finding the results of her A-levels, having all As, her mother can only become frustrated at Charlotte’s choice of keeping her baby and seemingly throw her life away. Karen can only find it in herself to distance herself from Charlotte. Nan and Daniel still stand by her side and act as her confidantes. Karen receives news that they have tracked down somebody who can lead her to her mother, and soon after she spontaneously leaves, and takes pursuit to London. There, Karen finds out that after her mother had given her up, she spent time in jail as a criminal. It was revealed that her mother was a callous woman, who watched as her own daughter began to die due to neglect.

Karen arrives at her biological mother’s home, and is invited in. They serve tea and Karen learns the extent of her mother’s cold-heartedness, where she shows no remorse for her awful actions toward her young daughter who later died of neglect. She goes on to coldly tell Karen that she didn’t want Karen when she gave her up, and that she doesn’t want her now and asks Karen to leave. A distraught Karen leaves, and in seconds receives a call that Charlotte has gone into labour. In an effort to get to the hospital, she rushes back to attend to her daughter as she had gone through exactly the same thing at her age. Disaster suddenly strikes when Karen runs out of petrol, but Leo arrives to rescue her and rushes her to the hospital. Karen arrives just on time, where Daniel has been providing moral support for Charlotte.

Some time later, Karen announces that it is a boy and they are going to call him Will after Charlotte’s grandfather. Nan nurses baby Will, while Karen, Charlotte and her all talk happily as one family and put aside all of their quarrels. Whilst Nan is holding Will contently, she becomes weak and slowly loses motion and slumps in the chair. Later on, Nan is believed to have had a serious stroke, may need round the clock care for some time resulting with her being taken to a nursing home. However, Karen is persistent that she will look after Nan and wouldn’t ever let her go into a nursing home.

Some time in the future, Charlotte wakes up and is frantic that she has forgotten to feed baby Will. She enters the front room, to be met with a surprise birthday party, made up of Nan, Daniel and some other friends all gathered for Charlotte. Charlotte can only run out crying as she feels that she can’t cope with being a mother. Karen comforts her and tells her that she has fed Will and that she is there for Charlotte whenever she needs her. But she is reassured by Karen that she is perfectly, if not more adequate at being a mother than anyone. Charlotte then happily engages in a kiss with Daniel, with Nan shouting that she would like a frog sandwich.


*Catherine Tate - Karen
*Anne Reid - Nan (Nancy)
*Holly Grainger - Charlotte (Charlie)
*Robert Pattinson - Daniel
*Steve John Shepherd - Steve
*Steve Pemberton - Leo

American remake

ABC is developing a pilot known as Bad Mother's Handbook to star Alicia Silverstone, Megan Mullally and Alia Shawkat. [ cite web | url = ]


External links

* [ Kate Long the author]
*imdb title|id=0909010|title=The Bad Mother's Handbook


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