Stay Tuned: Engaging workplace drama on ‘Love, Lies & Records’
A workplace drama about the professional and personal life of a registrar, “Love, Lies & Records” is Acorn TV’s latest British import. Focusing on Kate Dickinson (Ashley Jensen), a registrar in the city of Leeds and a harried mother of two teenagers, writer and creator Kay Mellor keeps Kate relatable by recognizing that everyday life is often filled with drama, even when you’re a civil servant who records births, deaths and marriages. In Kate, Mellor creates a likable female lead whose life is a little bit of a soap opera.
Early in the first episode, a busy domestic scene of Kate and her boyfriend Rob getting their children ready for school establishes her frenzied home life. It’s a traditional picture of contemporary working motherhood with all the pressures that go along with it. Kate’s teenage son and daughter push boundaries and she responds with frustration and good humor. In a subplot, she is suspicious of texts her 14-year-old daughter Lucy is receiving and worries that an older man could be targeting her. The storyline will play out in later episodes where Lucy sneaks out of the house and a panicked Kate discovers that she has been secretly dating a boy only two years older than her. Kate’s confrontation with her daughter reveals Lucy’s deep insecurities and Jensen plays the scene with a good balance of anger and empathy.
Kate finds her professional life fulfilling and is thrilled to receive her dream promotion to Superintendent Registrar until she is forced to decline it after a female colleague threatens to reveal an indelicate secret that would jeopardize her new position. The tension between Kate and her colleague is well-acted and the fight evolves as you might expect it would on a show featuring British characters in that everyone maintains a certain sense of decorum despite the soap opera type plot. But it’s all very watchable, even if the out-for-revenge colleague is slightly one-dimensional.
The work of recording births, deaths and marriages means interacting with strangers at the happiest and saddest moments of their lives and the series uses this idea to hit some of the storyline’s emotional notes. When Kate registers a birth in the first episode, the baby’s father tells her that the child’s mother is in hospice care and he regrets that they could never afford to marry, as it is now her dying wish. Kate makes it happen at short notice and performs the marriage herself. The bride is so frail, she has to sit through half of the ceremony. Rather than being a way to simply manipulate the audience’s feelings, the scene is rather poignant.
Presiding over the wedding causes Kate to think about her reluctance to marry the father of her children. This idea of the professional impacting the personal is a recurring and affective theme throughout the series. Using Kate’s interactions with her clients as a way for her to reflect on her life gives what is essentially a work drama about a very bureaucratic job a satisfying emotional tone.
“Love, Lies & Records” streams on Acorn TV.
— Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.