Iâll say it now:Â for viewers inevitably migrating toÂ Friday Night Dinner from The Inbetweeners, itâs nowhere near as rude, crude, and…well, funny.
The cult like following that theÂ latterÂ gained ensures that Simon Birdâs new comedy (written by Inbetweeners script editor Robert Popper) will probably never quite stand up to the Inbetweeners test, but thatâs not to say that it doesnât have some funny moments.
Sitting in the same family orientated vein as My Family and Grandmaâs House (though in Grandmaâs House Simon Amstell uses his âJewishnessâ for analytical comedic value, whereas with Friday Night Dinner it’s more of a passing detail), the show centres around the dysfunctional family life of the Goodmanâs and their two sons who visit for dinner on the Sabbath, occasionally featuring their odd-ball and ever-so-slightly pervy neighbour.
In the opening episode, mum and dad Jackie and MartinÂ are having a clear-out butÂ Martin doesnât want to throw away his old âcollectibleâ magazines and ropes in his sons Adam (Bird) and Jonny (newcomer Tom Rosenthal) to store his stash. In between dinner, their socially inept neighbour-with-a-dog Jim (Mark Heap from Spaced) keeps popping in to use their toilet as heâs broke his, and a man turns up for their sofa bed after Martin got the collection date wrong.
The bits that work are the little details that embellish the characters: take the fact that the dad is inexplicably shirtless in his home (well, heâs âboiling hotâ? apparently); wears a hearing aid and thus constantly mishears things; and has a curious habit of eating food from the bin. Bits that donât come off as well: the ongoing âbrotherlyâ pranks between Adam and Jonny, where Jonny laces Adamâs water with salt. Youâre left wondering where the joke is going, but it does in fact serve as a means to an ends, setting up the episodeâs funniest moment (well I certainly laughed, but maybe Iâm sadistic). It culminates in the man who has arrived to collect the sofa bed being comforted with a cup of tea after receiving a phone call alerting him of his dadâs death (hard-of-hearing-Martinâs reaction: âHow awful. What sort of dog was it?â?). Problem is, itâs the same cup that Adam has laced with salt in an act of revenge to Jonny. âWhy would you put salt in everything?â? wails the grief-stricken man after grabbing the nearest glass of water lying around â also ‘salted’. Nothing like a helping of salt to add insult to injuryâ¦
The comedyâs hardest task is the tricky knack of how to end a debut show with a snappy one liner that sums up the previous 25 minutes in witty and funny form. Unfortunately it chooses to build on an âoh shit on itâ? catchphrase that mum has chastised dad for saying in the episode, which isnât all that funny the first time round. However despite a few off jokes, I’d recommend Friday Night Dinner and will be watching it again because Simon Birdâs timing and distinct facial contortions are undeniable, weird neighbour Jim will probablyÂ get weirder,Â and I have a feeling the dad character will only get funnier.
Oh ‘shit on itâ, Iâve been convertedâ¦