Frank of Ireland ought to be a lot funnier than it is. The basic premise, of a layabout idiot’s struggles with love and life, is the core component of many a sitcom, from Hancock’s Half Hour to Peep Show. It’s a tried and trusted formula, but it needs to be skilfully done to keep the audience on side with an essentially selfish central character. In this case we have Frank (Brian Gleeson), a red beard Irish chappie living at home with his mother in Dublin long after he should have moved out, and whose love life is thus compromised and complicated. The results, unfortunately, aren’t always that hilarious, because, to be frank, he’s just a bit too idiotic and selfish for us to be rooting for him.
Frank’s main relationships are also too two-dimensional to carry the audience through to the end of the six-part run, I suspect. He has a best friend/lackey by the name of Doofus (real-life brother Domhnall Gleeson) who worships him, but there’s nothing more to him than that, so he’s about as vivid as the broom he uses to sweep up the supermarket he works in. Frank’s ex-girlfriend Áine (Sarah Greene) is defined solely by her aversion to anal sex, and his new girlfriend, Nicola (Liz Fitzgibbon) is into kickboxing, drugs and wild sex – and that’s it.
His mammy, Mary (Pom Boyd) does succeed as a fine foil to her son’s fecklessness, but we don’t see nearly enough of her. Mary’s “boyfriend” Padraig (Pat Shortt), middle-aged and desperate for love, is actually more amusing than the Frank character, but there we are. Together, the ensemble have some random adventures – at a funeral, a gym and in various bedrooms – but disjointedly, more like a succession of sketches than a narrative.
From the team behind the verbal firework display that was Catastrophe (Merman Productions’ Sharon Horgan and Clelia Mountford), it’s a disappointment. With all the slapstick and Frank’s rampant comedy boners, too much of the humour is a bit on the broad side. Don’t get me wrong, Frank of Ireland is not a crime against humanity on the scale of Mrs Brown’s Boys (still awaiting prosecution at The Hague), but there is a deficit of wit.
If it had dialogue more like, say, Derry Girls or Father Ted, or indeed Catastrophe, it could be sublime. It’s not terrible but, like so much about our lives at the moment, there’s something missing.
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