At the start of the first episode of this new series on BBC One Mrs. Brown’s boys, Mammy (Brendan O’Carroll of course) assured me that she was feeling very tired and unwell and I was of course hoping for the worst. Unfortunately, the dying but seemingly indestructible character of Agnes Brown will be around for a while yet, and it looks like she may end up being the last program BBC television ever broadcasts in its current linear form. Whenever someone asks me what the future of conventional television looks like, I point them to this Mrs. Brown’s boys, as a warning, cause and symbol of his ultimate downfall.
Please do not think that I have any personal ill will towards any of those involved. Aside from the obvious, I have nothing against O’Carroll, his co-author Paddy Houlihan, or anyone else involved in this television atrocity, and I wish them a long and prosperous life (tempered by a measure of envy at the way they, probably have such a comfortable life of lowest common denominator comedy. Still, good luck to them, as Mammy would say.
As always, there are no laughs – not a single giggle – as you sit through the half hour wearily grinding through the usual uninspired, unoriginal, dismal material – the kind of stuff that would put a best man’s speech to shame delivered by, say, Sir Gavin Williamson. What passes for dramatic action consists of a linear series of stilted, disjointed conversations between Mrs. Brown and her usual antagonists, i.e. the even more grotesquely anachronistic friend Winnie (Eilish O’Carroll), her insipid children (played with Cuprinol-like woodenness by Jennifer Gibney, Rory Brown, Danny O’Carroll and Martin Delany), the priest (Conor Moloney, and may God forgive him of course), Doctor Flynn (Derek Reddin) and of course Grandpa (Dermot O’Neill, who is going through this). applications in more ways than one).
You see, Grandpa is a bit constipated, bowel-wise, and his groaning discomfort is dismissed by Mom with grim predictability: “You’re not constipated; You’re full of shit.” The line is so lame and amateurish – and I must confess that I have used it myself in the past, finding it modestly original, but hopefully with a slight ironic sense of its own comedic inadequacy. O’Carroll, on the other hand, delivers it with the full force of a Senokot overdose.
The show climaxes, if you’ll pardon the expression, with Agnes blowing a suppository through a tube up Grandpa’s ass, whereupon the old man lets out a modest fart and his backdoor troubles come to an end.
In the right hands, so to speak, the sound of an elderly person breaking up after a week-long accumulation of flatulence could be made hilariously funny as a wild and delightful caricature of the essential and essentially amusing bodily function, perhaps even garnished with a line about Grandpa, who a fictitious Dublin “environmental zone”. Frankly, I’d like a sound effect like this (real or artificially acquired) to win a Bafta and be worth the license fee itself. But the noise that duly erupts from Grandad Brown’s crowded bomb bay is a curiously brief, muted, timid affair, especially considering the length of its creation, and is drowned out anyway by the audience’s screams, as if in sympathy with him tainted dilemma. The laziness with which the fart is portrayed is a stinging indictment of the show’s producers.
As for Mammy, who has been milking her worrying, inexplicable fatigue by any means necessary to get her friends and family to do a few chores, in the end all she needs is a few sleeping pills to restore her vitality. There’s a very tasteless joke that might fit along these lines about sleeping pills, but since it’s not funny I won’t bother with it. I suggest that this is a maxim that O’Carroll should also follow from time to time.