Ian Wolf

Gigglebox Weekly #61

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Gigglebox Weekly With Ian Wolf

This week Ian Wolf hunts for a stuffed toy and witnesses girls vomiting.

Friday Night Dinner

Back for a second series on Channel 4, Friday Night Dinner has retained the comic spark that it had in the first.

As with the previous helping, the series sees the Jewish Goodman family trying to have a dinner on a Friday night, which – as always – ends up with chaos. Brothers Adam and Jonny (Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal) fight and play pranks, while mother Jackie (Tamsin Greig) tries keep everything in order while cooking the “squirrel” – and father Martin (Paul Ritter) continues with his odd behaviour, refusing to wear a shirt.

In the opening episode, Jackie finds Adam’s old diary, which he reveals that he disposed of Jonny’s favourite cuddly toy when he was 11. As a result, Jonny tries to capture Adam’s beloved “Buggy”. In the meantime, Martin is constantly sneezing while trying to fix his lawnmower…

This was a great opening episode, mixing some off-the-wall humour (mainly from Jim, who claims playing the bassoon gave him “reverse hiccups”) with some good old fashioned slapstick, which helps to bring around a great ending to the episode itself.

Part of the reason why Friday Night Dinner seems to work is the fact that it’s based on something real, namely the actual experiences of such ‘Friday night dinners’ of the writer Robert Popper. It gives the show an extra footing from which you can get more laughs from, and it does seems to work.

Me and Mrs Jones

Meanwhile on BBC One another family based sitcom had just begun, and while this series should be a hit, for some reason it feels a little…drab.

Me and Mrs Jones revolves around divorced mother of three Gemma Jones (Sarah Alexander), who is trying to raise two daughters, while her son has just returned from China to ‘find himself’. Gemma not only work and family issues, but also has to deal with her ex-husband Jason (Neil Morrissey), who’s now going out with a younger Swedish lady.

In terms of the cast, it looks great. The writers, Oriane Messina and Fay Rusling, worked with Alexander on Smack the Pony and later on one of my favourite shows, Green Wing. And Alexander as well as Morrissey are both established sitcom actors. But I just didn’t find this show very funny.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some laughs, such as the scene when Morrissey is at a children’s football match and celebrates one of his daughters scoring a goal – unaware his face is covered in lipstick. However, most of it felt flat.

It could the fact that I’m familiar with their past work; I was expecting something more surreal and unusual from the writers. Not only was this not surreal enough, it wasn’t as grounded in reality as either Friday Night Dinner, which also features a Green Wing actress in the form of Tamsin Greig, or the forthcoming Hebburn.

The show also featured the two daughters vomiting a lot, which was slightly off-putting. Personally, I feel that vomit and ‘sick humour’ are best applied under the “Elizabeth Mainwaring” rule – it’s much funnier when it isn’t shown, because the image in your head is much better than the one on screen.

Then again, it could just be that this episode had to follow perhaps the most awkward and unfunny episode of Have I Got News for You there’s been in years. So in hindsight, Me and Mrs Jones probably deserves a second chance. Another viewing after a more joyful atmosphere may improve the output. At least I hope so.