The week in comedy: When beating the January blues is as easy as pie


Did you watch it? Statistically some of you must have done. I'm talking about Mrs Brown's Boys, which was the most watched programme on television on Christmas Day. Its festive special, "Buckin' Mammy", attracted 9.4 million viewers to BBC1; its New Year special, "Who's a Pretty Mammy", drew in 8.71 million, or 20.3 per cent, of the audience share. Last year, its Christmas Eve and Boxing Day specials were also the top rated of the day, with 11.68 million and 10.72 million viewers respectively. That's a lot of people who find a man in a dress grappling with a spinning Christmas tree funny.

Wherever you stand on Brendan O'Carroll's sitcom, its success is both undeniable and a bit of a curveball. Having started out as a ramshackle stage show, created to help O'Carroll pay off £2.2m in debts from a failed film and starring his family and friends, it has become that rarest and most lucrative of things, a comedy that appeals to all ages and works on TV, on DVD and in arenas. Many have tried to fathom the secret of its success – is it its simplicity, its traditionalism, or as O'Carroll puts it the fact that "it's just a man in a fucking dress"? – and as a new year begins many will try to emulate it.

January is prime time for TV comedy. Nobody wants to go out and everyone is feeling a bit blue. There is much to look forward to in the coming weeks. I can't wait for House of Fools, a surreal houseshare sitcom from Vic & Bob, co-starring Matt Berry, Dan Skinner and Daniel Simonsen, which begins on BBC2 this month. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a Golden Globe-nominated police comedy from the team behind Parks and Recreation and starring Andy Samberg, also starts this month on E4. Channel 4's homegrown cop comedy Babylon, written by Peep Show's Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, directed by Danny Boyle and starring James Nesbitt, Paterson Joseph and Jonny Sweet, follows not long after. Meanwhile, a third series of Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee has already kicked off on on, with Tina Fey, Louis C.K. and Jay Leno among those in the passenger seat.

Elsewhere, two spin-offs catch the eye. Catherine Tate reprises her foul-mouthed Nan for a full-length episode tomorrow night on BBC1 and the team behind the superlative Twenty Twelve, including Hugh Bonneville's ineffectual Ian Fletcher and Jessica Hynes' superlatively annoying PR Siobhan Sharpe, will reunite to streamline and redefine the BBC's core values in W1A on BBC2. Next month, two of the League of Gentlemen, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, will reunite for Inside No. 9, a comedy horror which takes place in six very different No. 9s, from a country house to a bedsit.

Looking further ahead, Channel 4 announced a raft of pilots just before Christmas, the juiciest of which looks to be Catastrophe written by Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, who will also co-star as a pair of struggling lovers. Mr Sloane, a Sixties-set comedy starring Nick Frost with Olivia Colman and Peter Serafinowicz screens on Sky Atlantic in May.

There are countless family sitcoms in the works, too including Graham Linehan's The Walshes, a spin-off from the hand-held camera web series The Taste of Home. All About the McKenzies also makes the leap from YouTube to London Live later in the year; Fresh Meat's Charlotte Ritchie (aka Oregon) and Tom Stourton will co-star in BBC3's Siblings in spring; and Grey Mates, starring Alison Steadman, June Whitfield and Russ Abbot will set out its stall to be a Friends for the retired community. Finally, Mrs Brown's Boys will return for a fourth series in late 2014, after Mammy makes her debut on the big screen in Mrs Brown's Boys: D'Movie in June.

Bride of place for Him and Her

It was a bold choice to make an entire series out of one wedding day but Him and Her has always had gloriously restricted horizons. Becky and Steve simply swapped their cramped bedsit for an uncomfortable hotel reception for the fourth and final series and the result was brilliant, compelling and heartfelt comedy.

It screened too late in the year to make it on to the comedy award shortlists but if it doesn't win a handful of prizes in 2014, not least for Kerry Howard's magnificent Laura, I'll eat my fascinator.

What I watched this week

Tim Vine

On DVD. 'So I Said to This Bloke' is perfect family-and-turkey-sandwiches viewing. Countless brilliant one-liners and an epic "pen behind the ear" routine, too.

Still Open All Hours

On BBC1. The Boxing Day revival of this corner shop comedy made me nostalgic for Ronnie Barker in his heyday. Still, at least it wasn't another repeat.

Between Two Ferns

On Zach Galifianakis' offhand celebrity interviews are a gift that keeps on giving. In this festive episode, Samuel L Jackson is patronised, Tobey Maguire is ignored and Arcade Fire sing "The Little Drummer Boy".

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas