Now that Doctor Who is gone, Mrs Brown’s Boys has now stepped up as the traditional BBC Christmas show for those who fancy something a bit more light-hearted (you’ve still got Eastenders if you’re worried you’re a bit too happy, don’t worry!). The show, following the misadventures of Irish matriarch Agnes Brown (Brendan O’Carroll) and her extended family, has always been a smash hit, despite critical disapproval. It was back for Christmas and New Year with two new specials, but were they any good? Well, the answer to that entirely depends upon your own attitude to the show – if you enjoy it, you won’t be disappointed.
Let’s start with the Christmas pick. In ‘Exotic Mammy’, Mrs Brown was invited to enter a house decorating competition for Christmas (inside the house, of course, ‘this is a set as we don’t have an outside’). She nominates her nemesis, sister-in-law Hilary (Susie Blake), as a judge in order to prevent her from competing, but her chance of winning may fall through after Hilary learns about her plan. Mrs Brown must also contend with a new wi-fi assistant, and neighbourhood ne’er-do-well Buster Brady (Danny O’Carroll) gets ready for a blind date.
Onto the New Year, and we were treated to ‘Mammy’s Motel’, which was by far one of the sweetest episodes of the show I’ve ever seen. Mrs Brown has been asked to deliver a funeral eulogy for a woman she barely remembers, and struggles with the task, especially as her best friend Winnie (Eilish O’Carroll) and her daughter have moved in after her own house flooded – sparks soon flew between the two. At the same time, Buster must deal with a fatherhood bombshell, as it appears he may have a secret son – he resolves to be a great father, but can he connect with the child?
The show is out to make you laugh and extol the virtues of family, and it’s great at both.
I don’t want anyone to labour under false pretences – most people have already made up their minds about whether they like Mrs Brown’s Boys or not and if you don’t, these specials aren’t changing your mind. There’s nothing new or innovative about these episodes – the show knows what its niche is, and it’s not changing now. You’ve your usual elements – Agnes’ foul mouth, the play with smut and crude gags and, best of all, the fourth-wall breaking references and the bits where it goes wrong, or the cast forget their lines. There’s nothing mean-spirited or superior here, the show is out to make you laugh and extol the virtues of family, and it’s great at both.
‘Exotic Mammy’ was definitely the weaker of the two specials, but that’s not to say that there aren’t moments to love. The most memorable scene, by far, is Buster’s blind date – up to that point, the episode was nothing special, but the date really had me laughing. However, it was the highlight in a bit of a dud special, which didn’t really have the show’s characteristic heart (the final twist involving Hilary seemed to me quite obvious from the off, rendering the emotional impact non-existent).
If you fancy a laugh to see you into the New Year, Mrs Brown’s Boys could be a very good shout indeed
‘Mammy’s Motel’, on the other hand, was a very strong showing. There was a lot going on (Agnes, at one point, asks ‘did I put too much in the script?’), but it all balanced nicely. It wasn’t constrained by a festive theme (I’ve always felt that the Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas special lose out by forcing the festive aspect), and the Buster story really hit the high notes. This is was Mrs Brown’s Boys as it should be – funny and coarse, but with a big heart.
If you don’t like Mrs Brown’s Boys, or you’re after something a bit more substantial, neither of these specials will be for you. However, as far as I’m concerned, the show is good bawdy fun, and it always makes me chuckle. If you fancy a laugh to see you into the New Year, Mrs Brown’s Boys could be a very good shout indeed.