Desperate Housewives. Bad Moms. Mean Mums. Are you sensing a theme here?

Filmmakers and TV execs love creating stories about mums gone wild and, judging by the success of some of the above ventures, audiences love watching them, too.

The latest show to join this genre is TVNZ's Bad Mothers, an Australian production created by Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan, the New Zealand-based writing team who've already given us Nothing Trivial, Go Girls and that very expensive dud, Filthy Rich.

Bad Mothers on TV1. Photo / Supplied
Bad Mothers on TV1. Photo / Supplied

Set in a well-to-do seaside suburb of Melbourne, Bad Mothers is the story of five women whose children all attend the same primary school. It's full of said women bitching about each other at school drop-off. And it opens with a body being found in a pool of blood at the bottom of some stairs.


You'd be forgiven for thinking this all sounds very familiar. Big Little Lies, an adaptation of Liane Moriarty's best-selling book, had an almost identical set-up – and it became one of the biggest TV events of 2017.

An HBO product with an HBO budget to match, that show was written by David E. Kelley and had a cast list that included Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz and Alexander Skarsgard. Its second season, slated for release this year, stars an up-and-comer by the name of Meryl Streep.

Needless to say, Big Little Lies is a tough act to follow, so if you're going to create a series that draws such inevitable comparisons to it, you'd better bring something that's fresh and/or compelling to the table. Bad Mothers misses the mark on both counts.

Melissa George plays Charlotte, a member of the Bedford Mothers' Club, who's all beautifully glossy hair and sharp suits.

Unfortunately for Charlotte, it was her body found in that pool of blood at the beginning of last week's episode. And, as the script takes such obvious pains to point out, there's more than one character who would've enjoyed pushing her to her death.

Sarah (Tess Haubrich) is Charlotte's best friend and a fellow "perfect" member of the Bedford Mothers' Club. Or at least she was until she discovered who Charlotte's been sleeping with of late.

Maddie (Mandy McElhinney) is a single mum and member of a 'Bad Mothers Club' splinter group. When Charlotte refuses to swap a dead chick (of the fowl variety) for a live one as part of their children's school project, Maddie brazenly talks about wanting "to kill Charlotte Evans".

Danielle (Jessica Tovey) is also upset over Charlotte's meddling in the chick-raising project she's organised for the kids and angrily spits, "Charlotte-bloody-Evans needs to be stopped."


Minutes later, another mum is saying "I feel like killing her."

Okay, okay, we get it. Everybody wants to kill Charlotte. And as far as motives go, a potentially marriage-ending affair and an attempt to stop a chick-raising project both sound like equally good reasons for committing murder.

Despite all these revelations about affairs and dead bodies, the series feels quite flat. Haubrich and George look especially bored in their roles as the Bedford Mothers' Club massive. Perhaps they're as tired as the rest of us with this storyline that we've all seen before?

The Bad Mothers Club, however, is a bit more fun, with Maddie, Danielle and their younger, brasher friend Bindy (Shalom Brune-Franklin) doing their best to inject a little levity into proceedings.

Because Bad Mothers does seem to be aiming for an overall lighter tone than the much darker material found at Big Little Lies. But with the first episode's only real laugh coming from a cubby house accidentally being set on fire during an otherwise solemn act of revenge, it would be a stretch to say the show's comedic in any way.

As somebody who often cheerfully identifies as a "bad mum", I really wanted to like this new gang of "bad mothers". But with the same old sniping at the school gates, the same old petty gossiping over bottles of wine and other motherhood clichés being trotted out, there's really nothing much new or exciting to see here. Not yet anyway.

I might just have to wait and see what this Meryl Streep does with the bad mothers over at Big Little Lies in a couple of months instead.

Bad Mothers airs Wednesdays at 8.30pm on TVNZ 1.