Saturday, 9 February 2013

Mrs. Browns Boys - Feckin' Declining?

Last Monday on the BBC was the last series of Mrs. Browns Boys which aired last Monday. It is a show that has been a guilty pleasure of mine, even though it has its nits. Yet, I couldn't help but think what the show had become of in the midst of its third series. Has Mrs. Brown's Boys declined in quality? At least, I couldn't see the enthusiasm in the third series as much as the public did. I found the season finale with the entire cast singing to Grease Lightning just plain corny and the whole ending was entirely incoherent...where in any aspect did it match to the story of the last episode? Yes, I've been pondering and analysing my aspects of the show recently over the past week.

During the week, I've been reading through several newspaper articles of how the critics and columnists despise the show for its crudity and incoherence, but yet the audience loved it. Mrs. Browns Boys creator Brendan O'Carroll clearly didn't write his show to impress the critics, nor did he create the show in search for television British stars--no, the entire set of cast consist of family members and very close friends. The show clearly is for the public who appear to dislike subtle humour, the middle-aged as well as 'obsesso Aspies'.

Mrs Browns Boys originally started off as a show in Irish radio when Brendan O'Carroll created the series in 1992. A huge hit in Ireland, the show didn't reach its peak or recognition towards the UK until the BBC granted O'Carroll a series for the most popular TV channel in Britain. It was a huge success when first aired in 2011, and two more series have been commissioned, with now a forth series being considered and a movie in the works. What is it about Mrs. Browns Boys that attracts the UK proud - why it appears to outnumber supposedly superior shows like Downtown Abbey. It even outnumbers Miranda (although I'm not surprised - 'Miranda' is about as funny as a grandmother's funeral). The show recently won the National Television Award for Best Situation Comedy, and yet at the same time has been considered the worst 'comedy ever made'. Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer worse than 'Mrs Browns Boys?' - surely. It's definitely not the worst comedy ever made - but I do understand the criticism the show brings; which will be broken down into a analysis.

My view of the show is its the view and caricature of the Irish dysfunctional family. Much like The Simpsons being the American dysfunctional family -- or even Chuck Jones' Three Bears series for Looney Tunes. Both are comic geniuses in displaying dysfunctional families - Mrs. Browns Boys, however, stands out as inferior amongst many family shows. It's clearly just a family show by family lover Brendan O'Carroll where they consist of no stars (except Gary Hollywood, plays Dino Doyle) who all appear to turn out either solid or hit-and-miss performances each episode. One of the reasons as to why its a guilty pleasure of mine - I'll explain the positives first: to me, Mrs. Browns Boys is a show that has guts...they throw away dirty jokes, innuendos and even profanity I thought the BBC wouldn't let slip of. I have to give credit for the character personalities which most of them are very well comically performed, with all given different and unique personalities (except characters Mark Brown and Maria Brown, who are easily the most bland characters played by two unfunny actors).

Mrs. Brown - the Irish mother, a mother of five children--is certainly a sadistic woman from the impression I see of her. Why? Lack of respect for her deceased husband, torments and harasses Grandad (even in one episode--tried to set up his death), and of course...disloyalty towards most of her friends and peers - but its all presented for comic purposes. Are they amusing - I'd say so. Is Mrs. Brown subtle with her remarks - now THAT statement is a JOKE. She is completely the opposite of subtle. It feels to me as though much of the humour turns out to me that her 'jokes' are only funny through her/his (its a man in a feckin dress) strong abundance of 'fecks' and other four-lettered words--that appear to be a real hoot for the audience. A really great example of an example can be seen in in the Second Series where Mrs Brown announces Maria being pregnant. 'I didn't tell you - Maria's pregnant. Isn't it so feckin' exciting'. The audience chuckle a little. If the show was cleaned up with the profane, with the line: 'Maria's pregnant. Isn't it exciting?' that would just be an agreement towards the audience. It turns out we are in a generation where profanity is used. Mind you, I don't really care for hearing it - I hear and even use it in every day conversation. But, what frustrates me is it appears to be only jokes for the lines just to make the audience laugh -- it seems no-one gives a damn for subtle humour anymore where it was all clean and it stimulated your thoughts.

To my guilty liking of the show - I will admit I think the first and second series were a great peak with some memorable sequences seen in television. I'll admit - Season 1, Ep. 4 - the sequence with Mrs. Brown and her rival Mrs. Nicholson having dinner together in Mrs. Brown's house is probably some of the funniest comic performances I've seen in British television. When watching the third series -- I've been starting to feel the show has started to become rather tiring and dry. The jokes didn't all appear to turn out as fresh and even a desperation for a laugh was common through the series. I suppose its never easy to make a tight episode when only two locations actually exist in the whole show (Mrs. Brown's house, the pub). It's hard to put my own finger as to why I feel the jokes had a slight decline in quality--perhaps because the third series wasn't as outrageous and even shocking as the first and second series where much of the comic humour was humour. A few of the episodes in series three seemed rather chatty and monotonous.

An example for the decline of the show--Brendan O'Carroll appears to have recycled a gag or even got gag ideas by being inspired from The Simpsons. In S3E4 - 'Mammy's Valentine', Mammy is attempting to sign in for internet dating but finds a page in her monitor that reads 'to begin press ANY KEY'. In the Simpsons episode King-Sized Homer - Homer finds the exact same message where he reads: 'To start press ANY KEY - but where's the 'any key?'. That short line and gag is suffice alone to display Homer's ignorance, which is wonderfully executed itself. Meanwhile in Mrs. Brown - you can tell Brendan is in desperation to make an audience laugh, and even tries too hard - it's barely much other than a couple of chuckles. Also, the 1st and 2nd series - had storylines that went through from the beginning to the very end; both surprising. In the 1st series - Dermot and Maria were planned on getting married where Brendan O'Carroll was very fresh on ideas. In the 2nd series - Maria was pregnant and the triplets would be born at the end of the series; which kept the show fresh. In the 3rd series; the main storyline was Mark and his family forcibly emigrating to Australia because of Mark's business corruption, but however ends up not moving. Certainly couldn't create much of a string of gags to pull off a fresh series, eh?

With issues asides, you have to give credit towards his family members and close friends who are (mostly) great actors. Brendan O'Carroll is great as Mrs. Brown, and his son Danny is brilliant as the menacing Buster Brady -- and experienced actor Gary Hollywood is excellent as the gay boyfriend (Dino now husband) of Rory Brown (played by Rory Cowan - also great) and even Dermot O'Neill as Grandad, who is probably the best actor of them all with a superb sense of deadpan. Just to name a few - but they mostly all do wonderful. With much of the gags that they have already known for the last ten years (through shows, with similar episodes with the exact same gags) I sure wonder how they are still able to crack up laughing at Mrs. Brown's jokes -- even after hearing them the last ten years or so?? If they really are that hilarious - then Brendan has the touch.

The series is expected for much more in the near future: a movie, a forth series (commissioned for 2015) and even upcoming Christmas specials. We'll see in the future what the consequences will become of...