TV Review, Mrs Brown's Boys Live, BBC1

Apparently 40,000 fans applied for the 400 tickets for this live sitcom broadcast. 40,000 people can’t be wrong can they? Well, 17 million voted for Brexit and we all know what a fecking mess that has got us into, as Agnes Brown might say. 

In fairness this episode was not as bad as Brexit. Well, not quite anyway. The difficulty for reviewers is that Brendan O’Carroll, alias smutty Dublin matriarch Agnes Brown, is a very good knockabout comic performer. He has enviable comic timing and plenty of charisma once he dons the wig and dress.

The trouble is eveything else. The scripts, for instance, are so desperately corny. This episode involved Mrs Brown trying to learn about spicing up sex via the “Mammy Sutra”. Plenty of scope for the usual smut then, and also, interestingly, some genuine "fucks" were heard as well as the trademark fecks (well, we say trademark, but Father Ted got in first).

As with the regular TV series there was the usual Brechtian breaking down of the fourth wall as us snobby head-up-our-arse middle class critics call it. The camera frequently pulled back to reveal the director, producer, studio set and, erm, other cameras. Programme-makers were getting younger, said Mrs Brown, the producer was still being breast-fed.

And, of course there were the moments when O’Carroll took great pleasure in going off-script and making the others in the cast a) look awkward/terrified and b) corpse. Though how many of these moments was really spontaneous is up for grabs. I’ve seen the live show onstage and there was plenty of not-so-unexpected corpsing in that.

As for the gags, it felt as if they could have been written by a couple of potty-mouthed monkeys with a keyboard. In the sub-plot about taking over a hairdressing salon it was not possible to say the word “blow” without a sniggering hint at oral sex. And, hey, the fact that the word was said by one of the gay characters naturally made it so much funnier. 

So everything here was pretty much par for the course for Ma Brown. The only real surprise was the speech direct to the camera at the very end. "If you ever feel lonely or a bit down turn on the television and flick to comedy. From Dad's Army to Fawlty Towers or Only Fools And Horses. We'll be there – you can depend on that." A nice sentiment from a man who clearly cares about comedy and yet insists on sticking to the lowest common denominator. Personally I’d rather watch a rerun of Dad’s Army.


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