Friday Night Dinner Review: Can It Pass The Inbetweeners Test?

FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER: Friday 25th February, C4, 10PM

I’ll say it now: for viewers inevitably migrating to Friday Night Dinner from The Inbetweeners, it’s nowhere near as rude, crude, and…well, funny.

The cult like following that the latter gained ensures that Simon Bird’s new comedy (written by Inbetweeners script editor Robert Popper) will probably never quite stand up to the Inbetweeners test, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have some funny moments.

Sitting in the same family orientated vein as My Family and Grandma’s House (though in Grandma’s House Simon Amstell uses his ‘Jewishness’ 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 Goodman’s 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 Martin are having a clear-out but Martin doesn’t want to throw away his old ‘collectible’ 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 he’s 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, he’s “boiling hotâ€? apparently); wears a hearing aid and thus constantly mishears things; and has a curious habit of eating food from the bin. Bits that don’t come off as well: the ongoing ‘brotherly’ pranks between Adam and Jonny, where Jonny laces Adam’s water with salt. You’re left wondering where the joke is going, but it does in fact serve as a means to an ends, setting up the episode’s funniest moment (well I certainly laughed, but maybe I’m 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 dad’s death (hard-of-hearing-Martin’s reaction: “How awful. What sort of dog was it?â€?). Problem is, it’s the same cup that Adam has laced with salt in an act of revenge to Jonny. “Why would you put salt in everything?â€? wails the grief-stricken man after grabbing the nearest glass of water lying around – also ‘salted’. Nothing like a helping of salt to add insult to injury…

The comedy’s 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 “oh shit on itâ€? catchphrase that mum has chastised dad for saying in the episode, which isn’t 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 Bird’s timing and distinct facial contortions are undeniable, weird neighbour Jim will probably get weirder, and I have a feeling the dad character will only get funnier.

Oh ‘shit on it’, I’ve been converted…

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