herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Brendan's voyage of comic discovery

It takes all sorts of comedy to make us laugh, and Mrs brown struck a note with 7.2 million across the water, writes Pat Stacey

Why were so many people surprised, and in some cases outraged, that Mrs Brown's Boys won the best sitcom award at last Sunday night's Baftas? Anyone with a functioning brain should have recognised the strong likelihood of it happening.

It was watched by 7.2m viewers on BBC1, which is a staggering figure for a comedy going out at 10.30pm, whereas the other nominees -- Rev, Fresh Meat and Friday Night Dinner -- drew critical plaudits but small audiences. No matter what people say about quality being more important than quantity, those numbers are hard to ignore.

It's also reasonable to assume that some of those 7.2m are members of the British Academy of Film & Television Arts, with personal tastes as unique and idiosyncratic as yours or mine.

CLASS

Hitting the jackpot in comedy is often about being in the right place at the right time; just ask the countless comedians who rode the alternative comedy wave of the 1980s all the way to solid careers within the very television establishment they once set out to challenge.

As it happens, O'Carroll's timing, whether by accident or design, is faultless. Mrs Brown's Boys chimes perfectly with recently appointed BBC controller Danny Cohen's desire to see more of what he called "working-class comedies" on screen.

So at the moment O'Carroll would seem to have the world, or at least the world of British television, at his feet. And good luck to the man.

Mrs Brown's Boys is not my cup of tea and never will be. If I'm being brutally honest, I can't stand it. But that's hardly the point.

Television needs diversity, perhaps even more in comedy than in any other area.

TASTE

It's the most popular medium in the world, available in your living room 24/7, and it needs to have something for everyone.

The right to express your taste and opinions, whether through making television or through the criticism of television, is a precious freedom (although that's sometimes overlooked by those performers who lap up praise like honey, but regurgitate it into bile the moment the reviews turn negative).

O'Carroll, who has a right to be delighted with his award, would probably regard his critics in Ireland as begrudgers, or plain snobs, who only like comedies with middle-class accents and no studio audience. Yet this ignores the fact that it's possible to like many different strands of comedy.

Just because you're a Woody Allen fan doesn't mean you don't get a kick out of the old Carry On movies.

You can love The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm and 30 Rock, yet still have room in your heart for Steptoe and Son, Only Fools and Horses and Rising Damp.

Les Dawson and Bill Hicks? Not a lot in common there really -- other than both of them being hilarious.

It works in reverse, too.

I loathed Love Thy Neighbour, Mind Your Language and On the Buses.

All easy targets, you might say, but I have to admit I could never work up much enthusiasm for Seinfeld either -- and that, you might recall, won the odd award or 50.

>gene-ius It's good to see Madeleine Stowe back on screen in E4's slick but cheesy American melodrama Revenge. I developed a mad crush on Maddy the moment I saw her in The Last of the Mohicans in 1992.

Some things never change, least of all Madeleine herself. Now 53, she looks exactly like she did 20 years ago. Only younger. The woman must have great genes. Obviously.

>euro countdown It's approximately 11am on Thursday as I'm writing this, meaning that, give or take a few minutes, there are 8.3 days -- or 199.2 hours -- to go to the start of the European Championships.

I can't wait. I'm already counting the minutes (11,952, since you asked) and at least one TV set in the house will be permanently tuned to RTE2 for the month of June.

Why would you watch anywhere else when RTE has the best team of football analysts in the business?

I'm reminded of Ireland's first Euros back on 1988, when a smirking Tony Francis of ITV reported from a field while a sheep grazed in the background and diddly eye music played on the soundtrack

The sheep had the last laugh.

We beat England 1-0 in our opening match. Baa!

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