Grace Dent on TV: Mrs Brown's Boys, BBC1

Irritating relatives, terrible jokes, mindless banter: the perfect accompaniment to a family Christmas

Brilliant TV is apparently the cornerstone of Christmas, but in reality most of us spend the holiday missing all of it, sat in a living room thick with brussels-sprout wind and children's squeals, with the TV screen obscured by the fat arses of guests who've over-stayed their welcome. Did you enjoy the Christmas Doctor Who special? Or was that when Aunty Bridie needed her run home or your odious cousin began paraphrasing the best bits from his Mock the Week – Too Hot for TV DVD.

Other poor souls might have experienced a fate even worse: the entire family gathering as one – on the insistence of one of the more bossy house elders – to watch the Mrs Brown's Boys two-part Christmas Special. For those untouched by this Irish comedy phenomenon, Mrs Brown's Boys is the brainchild of comedian Brendan O'Carroll, who plays foul-mouthed Irish matriarch Agnes Brown, a feisty, foul-mouthed individual who spends her life meddling with the lives of her six kids. Once seen, it is rarely forgotten. To love Mrs Brown, and millions of people do, one must be thrilled by a man in a hairnet and dinner lady tabard saying the F-word roughly once every ten minutes, egged on by a loyal studio audience so whipped to hysteria by him that one can hear pants being soiled and spleens exploding with mirth.

The Christmas special opened with Mrs Brown inexplicably stuck on the top of a Christmas tree. "I slipped!" she said to camera. The audience erupted in happiness. "Wake up ya bastard!" she hissed at Grandad asleep in a chair, throwing a bauble at his head. Uproarious laughter. Stretchers gathered at the theatre's door to transport audience members to waiting ambulances. I have never laughed at this show once and by God, I've tried. I've sat there staring at it, mumbling, 'Concentrate, there are funny things happening there. People swear by the hilarity of this show'. But it's not on my brain LOL-frequency. However, I watch Friends re-runs every single day, so who is the arbiter of taste here? And there's a web page called sadtrombone.com which plays a comedy sound-effect of a Tom and Jerry "wah-wah-wah" honking "failure" noise which has been amusing me solidly for over three years. "Decorate the tree?" Mrs Brown said, surveying the living room from her position up on high. "Well it's not going too fucking well is it?" Not fecking, not ducking, not bucking, but fucking. If this was a show about young people called "Mrs Brown's Boyz" the plethora of blue language would have caused wild gnashing of teeth. Not so here.

The show is set around the Brown family home. It's a TV set, and Mrs Brown continually talks to the camera and also the studio audience. Cast members, of which there are at least 70, with names like Buster and Winnie, loiter into scenes, slamming doors which wobble, fluffing their lines and retaking, laughing at Mrs Brown's jokes when they shouldn't and holding their limbs at awkward angles like people who have never acted in their lives.

On first sight of the show, it's common to feel a slight televisual sea-sickness; nothing is as it should be by orthodox sitcom standards. It is a festival of wrongness. Typically, there will be a very slender suggestion in each 30 minutes of a plot; for example, in the Christmas Eve special, Mrs Brown had been conned to believe that the house had been fitted with secret cameras for a reality-TV show, so she had begun talking in a posh accent. Don't worry yourself with the vast unfeasibility of this idea. In fact, don't use your brain at all. We'll have no brains here today, thank you!

Mrs Brown's Boys is a very broad comedy. The brand sells millions of DVDs and Mrs Brown live tickets and brings light and joy to people's lives. It is Two Pints of Lager and Packet of Crisps, but more than ten times as crass and not as cerebral. It's that sitcom in BBC1's Extras that the Ricky Gervais character was embarrassed to be the start of, despite it bringing him adulation and wealth. It's a big, silly, thick show – part pantomime, part It's a Knockout, part 1980s sitcom Bread, part CBeebies. It's the show that the BBC have been dying to commission for years, but couldn't find anyone from their usual flock of writers who'd turn in anything as knowingly base. Because – and I mean it most sincerely – it's a skill to write something as bold, ragged and wholly cherished by millions as Mrs Brown's Boys. If you think you can do it, please grab a pen now and begin: there's big money to be made.

As several people have said to me, they know the show's flaws, but can never truly hate it when it makes their parents laugh so hard; so they all sit and watch together. Mrs Brown's Boys: the worst comedy ever made, yet the most Christmassy thing on TV.

Grace's marmalade dropper: The Queen's Speech in 3D! Woooo, ma'am, it was like you were in the room!

Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea