Tucked away in what was a rather underwhelming BBC festive schedule is the annual comedy offering, two new instalments of the divisive Mrs Brown’s Boys. This year doesn’t offer anything different, but that’s half of the show’s charm – it promises and delivers solid laughs, and fans of the show will love it.
We’ll start with the Christmas offering, ‘A Wonderful Mammy’. It’s Christmas in Finglas, but no-one in the Brown household is feeling particularly festive. Agnes (Brendan O’Carroll) has fallen out with her family and wishes that she’d never been born. True to the parody, an angel (Kevin Kennedy) appears, and grants her wish, transporting her to an alternate universe in which everything is different and nobody recognises her. And, horror of horrors, this world has its own Mrs Brown – and it’s none over than Agnes’ rival, Hilary (Susie Blake).
It promises and delivers solid laughs, and fans of the show will love it
On New Year’s Day, we had a second instalment, ‘Orange is the New Mammy’. Agnes is horrified to discover that Peggy Piper (Sue Vincent), the Pernod poisoner, is being released from prison and could be coming back to Finglas. This is bad news for Agnes’ best friend Winnie (Eilish O’Carroll), who gave the evidence that helped put Peggy behind bars in the first place – is Peggy’s return motivated by revenge, or something else entirely? And is she actually guilty? Meanwhile, Buster (Danny O’Carroll) panics after he loses an expensive tank costume hired for his latest promotion.
The major issue with the Christmas instalment is that, because of the premise, much of the episode is spent seeing what is different. In the second half, most of the punchlines are just seeing the characters with a different personality – Dermot (Paddy Houlihan) is now a camp gay, for example, and Maria (Fiona O’Carroll) is a foreign maid. It’s enjoyable and the cast are clearly having fun, but there’s not much more to it than that. If you were watching Mrs Browns Boys for the first time, there’s not that much for you to laugh at. The episode does succeed, though, in offering up a lot of heart – for a bawdy comedy, it’s impressive how much you feel for the despondent Agnes.
It’s enjoyable and the cast are clearly having fun, but there’s not much more to it than that
We continue some of the Christmas running gags, such as Agnes falling foul of a rogue Christmas tree, but it’s the New Year’s special that works better as a piece of comedy, liberated from the need to be festive and just focus on gags. There’s a great set-piece as both Agnes and Winnie try to avoid drinking the Pernods that Peggy prepares for them, forgetting which one may be safe, and I love that the actors are clearly having fun with it too. I always think that these must be great fun to do, and it really comes across when you watch. Plus, it’s supremely daft – we’ve got a murder story, a missing tank and a random gospel choir in half an hour, and it all works.
All in all, the comedy in Mrs Brown’s Boys is massively familiar. You can see half of the punchlines coming from a mile off, but that doesn’t matter, and it’s always worth watching for the moments when the cast break the fourth wall. Agnes’ side glances to the camera as stupid things happen are brilliant – the standout, though, is her increased annoyance as Dermot succeeds with a highly alliterative summary of why Peggy Piper went to prison, which quickly devolves into farce as only this show can.
You can see half of the punchlines coming from a mile off, but that doesn’t matter
If you don’t like Mrs Brown’s Boys by now, nothing I’ve written will change your mind. It’s one of those shows that you love or you hate and, as someone who loves it, I can recommend these latest two festive offerings. It’s more of the same family-oriented humour, focusing unashamedly on making you laugh and nothing else, and it does a wonderful job – comedy doesn’t need to be anything else.