âIs it a drama or a comedy?â? is the question on everyoneâs (often hairy upper-) lips in anarchic comedy sprite Simon Amstellâs fictional family during the disarming first episode of that tragicomic festival of awkwardness, Grandmaâs House, series two.
But this is not simply the query posed incessantly regarding his new project by pushy mother Tanya (âyouâre so frigid! When was the last time you had sex?â? she shrieks, poking her shuffling skeleton of a son in the ribs) or by his belligerent and hirsute Aunt Liz – it is also one of many pleasing slices of self-conscious dialogue that pepper the episode, referring to mixed reviews of the first series.
âDo you need some more acting lessons?â? inspires a meek âmaybeâ? from our corkscrew-coiffed protagonist, his mischievous self-awareness deflating any previous snarky criticism of his acting skills.
And it seems the second series has found its home, with a sharper pace and more tangible hilarity than first time round. So we should all be very proud of Simon, who, in the assured words of his garrulous television mother, has become a âreal-life Paula Abdulâ?.
This particular real-time romp through the Kafkaesque vacillations of half an hour in the house of Simonâs munificent Jewish grandmother (âweâre all here together, getting onâ?, she desperately intones above the racket of rowing relatives) provides ample opportunity for the programmeâs signature understated unease.
The reluctant antihero wakes up with an all too youthful one-night-stand in his bed – âeveryone had a lovely time!â? he squeaks of the experience, writhing with indignity as he attempts to scuttle away â and tries in vain to hide the particularly bolshie adolescent from various family members who have come to visit. âGood luck with it allâ?, he tells his one-time lover, as he escapes sharing a shower with him in his grandmotherâs bathroom.
As the horny young thing is manoeuvred around the house, and Simon is tasked with ousting Tanyaâs horrendously well-meaning former fiancÃ© Clive â âdamp is my middle name!â? â the comedy comes not from the slapstick, but from some devilishly well-placed lines.
âIâll bring you a bananaâ?, âwhy am I holding a bucket?â? and âIâve got a small pineappleâ? derive from Simonâs penchant for the ludicrously mundane, and work perfectly in the bizarre dysfunctional family context.
All this insanity and improbable fruit contrasts poignantly with the underlying tragedy symbolised by Grandpa Bernieâs empty armchair.
Yet despite marked improvements, there remains one glaring error revealed in this episode. It is Simonâs assertion: âIâm still funny, just not publicly.â? Because heâs very much both. Just like Paula Abdul.
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