With shows such as “In My Skin” on Hulu and “The Capture” on Peacock, this summer has been especially strong when it comes to British programming. “Frayed” is another import that showed up on HBO Max recently, and it’s a sweet, beautifully acted, and sometimes raunchy family dramedy. It’s not worth getting HBO Max simply for “Frayed,” but if you already have the streaming service you might want to give the six-episode first season a go.
Actually, “Frayed,” which is set in the 1980s, is a British-Australian coproduction, and most of it takes place in Australia. The premise is reminiscent of “Schitt’s Creek”: Super wealthy Londoner Simone (show creator Sarah Kendall) loses her husband and their fortune overnight, and winds up bringing her two teen kids back home to Australia to live with her financially struggling mother and brother. Simone left the town abruptly after high school, and her family and her ex-boyfriend still hold it against her. They also don’t like her fancy attitude, which she cultivated in England as a wealthy lady. Indeed, her real name, which her family uses, is Sammy, short for Samantha.
So she’s a fish out of water, who was once a fish in water, or something like that. She constructed a hoity-toity front, and now she has to take it down against her will. Kendall plays all angles of the situation perfectly, as her British accent rears its head and then subsides, or as she loses her composure and fights with her crude-dude brother, Jim (Ben Mingay), like a 5-year-old. She plays the comedy for all its worth, and she’s there, too, for the drama that emerges as she and her kids need — but don’t want — to fit in.
The plot? The bulky 1980s cellphones and hairstyles? They’re not the primary reason to watch, although they do entertain. For me, the best charm of “Frayed” is the rich ensemble around and including Sarah, including Matt Passmore as her ex, the thoroughly delightful Maggie Ireland-Jones as her brave daughter Tess, and the magnificent Kerry Armstrong as her mother, a woman who is deeply committed to her sobriety. Season 2? Yes please.