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 Crackle.com 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 funnyordie.com. 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".

www.twitter.com/alicevjones

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent