Grandma’s House Review: Finds Its Home

GRANDMA’S HOUSE: Thursday 19th April, BBC2, 10pm

“Is it a drama or a comedy?â€? is the question on everyone’s (often hairy upper-) lips in anarchic comedy sprite Simon Amstell’s fictional family during the disarming first episode of that tragicomic festival of awkwardness, Grandma’s House, series two.

But this is not simply the query posed incessantly regarding his new project by pushy mother Tanya (“you’re 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.

“Do you need some more acting lessons?â€? inspires a meek “maybeâ€? 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 “real-life Paula Abdulâ€?.

This particular real-time romp through the Kafkaesque vacillations of half an hour in the house of Simon’s munificent Jewish grandmother (“we’re all here together, getting onâ€?, she desperately intones above the racket of rowing relatives) provides ample opportunity for the programme’s signature understated unease.

The reluctant antihero wakes up with an all too youthful one-night-stand in his bed – “everyone had a lovely time!â€? he squeaks of the experience, writhing with indignity as he attempts to scuttle away – and tries in vain to hide the particularly bolshie adolescent from various family members who have come to visit. “Good luck with it allâ€?, he tells his one-time lover, as he escapes sharing a shower with him in his grandmother’s bathroom.

As the horny young thing is manoeuvred around the house, and Simon is tasked with ousting Tanya’s horrendously well-meaning former fiancé Clive – “damp is my middle name!â€? – the comedy comes not from the slapstick, but from some devilishly well-placed lines.

“I’ll bring you a bananaâ€?, “why am I holding a bucket?â€? and “I’ve got a small pineappleâ€? derive from Simon’s 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 Bernie’s empty armchair.

Yet despite marked improvements, there remains one glaring error revealed in this episode. It is Simon’s assertion: “I’m still funny, just not publicly.â€? Because he’s very much both. Just like Paula Abdul.

Follow Anoosh on Twitter @anooshchakelian

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