As I mentioned in my previous post, there seems to be a bumper crop of comedies around at the moment. Amongst them is a long-standing favourite of mine, the glorious Friday Night Dinner. The set-up is surprisingly basic – a Jewish family get together every Friday night for dinner. The two adult sons are both old enough to live alone but also still have mum’s apron strings well attached. Dad is eccentric, although whether these have been always present or just developing through old age we are never sure. Nothing particularly extreme here.

But that is actually help, as such a basic premise allows the writer to hinge everything on a plot. No need to run ongoing narratives. Just a comfortable pattern of an opening situation slowly bubbling up into outright farce. There isn’t even a need for everything to be resolved, as we take it as given that the family will be back together next week, making another attempt to have a normal night.

Take the first episode of the new series, which was nearly perfect. Dad has invited a university friend over for dinner, only to discover he invited someone with a similar name who he hates. This man also happens to have irritating quirks, including blinking too slowly. The focus is on getting him out, which leads to the ridiculous lie of a grandma dying. As the episode progresses, more characters get sucked into the lie, including a barmy next door neighbour, until the grandma in question suddenly appears, causing the whole façade to come crashing down. The episode ends with the dad trying to insert a pineapple up his friend’s arse, for reasons you need to watch to fully understand.

What this show does well is balancing the need to for sight gags with ensuring the plot for the episode keeps momentum. Everything has its purpose, even a throwaway reference to a broken watch.

It also, for the most part, is brilliantly warm. Whilst the family may wind each other up, no one actually seeks to hurt anyone else, beyond some low-level humiliation. In fact, the only time there is a crack in the show is when other bystanders get roped in to situation. We accept Jim the neighbour, Grandma and Val could get caught up in things, but not anybody outside the circle. That is the only time uncomfortably funny becomes almost unbearable painful.

Nevertheless, it is still a pocket of joy. The fact that it is so unrewarded is a small outrage. Maybe its lack of a dark heart or the fact the humiliations are comparatively minor mean that the critics pass over it. Then again, a lot of programmes don’t get their due. Instead, their fans get to enjoy them, safe in the knowledge that, although it never shocks, it always entertains.

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