Review – Mrs. Brown’s Boys
Mrs. Brown’s Boys – Seven – 9:00pm Wednesday – AUS / BBC One – UK
It may have been on the air for just a week but Channel 7 has already declared the BBC comedy series Mrs. Brown’s Boys “Australia’s #1 new comedy”, as if that means anything. Mrs. Brown’s Boys is a filthy-mouthed old-fashioned sitcom starring Brendan O’Carroll in drag as Mrs. Brown. This is an odd sitcom to try and get a handle on because while the show is certainly playing to the cheap seats – one big comic scene involves something getting inadvertently shoved up somebody’s butt – the show also has a weird slightly meta undercurrent that makes the broader moments more tolerable.
The balancing act on display in the first episode of Mrs. Brown’s Boys leans more towards the cheap gags than the meta-commentary and unfortunately the show is less interesting because of it. The plot involving one of Mrs. Brown’s sons getting dumped by his girlfriend and Mrs. Brown scheming to get them back together is one-note sitcom trash. There’s an elaborate setup, there’s wackiness involving a taser that you can see coming a mile away, and it’s all wrapped up by the end credits. There’s nothing in this side of the show worth bothering with. We’ve seen the foul-mouthed old woman trope before and we’ve seen the meddling mother trope before, however, we get glimpses here and there of things that we don’t see all that often and are actually quite fun.
O’Carroll breaks the fourth wall by talking directly to the audience at home, much like Miranda does in her similarly old-fashioned self-titled sitcom, and it’s that breakdown between the show playing out its clichéd storylines and its acknowledgement that it is just a sitcom that’s rather funny. There’s a moment where O’Carroll really milks a tender moment for all the ‘awws’ he can get from the studio audience before turning to them and saying ‘it’s a man in fecking dress!’ to cut them off. It indulges in the expectations of the sitcom and then undercuts them. The other highlight is when Mrs. Brown is out at the pub with her daughter but has forgotten her bag at home, so she hops out past the cameras and across a few sets to go grab it. These are only small moments scattered throughout the episode, but they have such life and are so unexpected (especially as the rest of the show is so run of the mill) that they’re really funny.
Mrs. Brown’s Boys is crass and cheap, and feels very much like the sort of lame sitcom Ricky Gervais spoofed with When The Whistle Blows, but if you can get past that it has an infectious energy. The show doesn’t make it easy on you with its groan-worthy one-liners and love of shoving things up people’s asses for a laugh, but you can see something fun in there. The show is helped immensely by the supporting cast members constantly breaking down into giggles – nothing is quite as enjoyable as watching somebody in the show being so caught up in the strangeness of a situation that they can no longer keep it in. That being said, giggling cast members and the occasional breaking of the fourth wall do not a great sitcom make; sadly there’s more to dislike about Mrs. Brown’s Boys than there is to like about it.
Good, Alright, Bad Or Ugly?