An avid television watcher I am not, but I have my favourites to catch up on while I get ready in the morning. On the current catch up list is The Hotel, Miranda (not normally my kind of humour, but she captures the nuances of insecure behaviour so well between the slapstick comedy that I can’t help but love her a bit), and lastly I have a burning but questionable love for Mrs. Brown’s Boys.
I was surprised that when I mentioned this on the January podcast it was met with an air of pure horror. In the excitement of Christmas I’d missed that Mrs. Brown’s Boys had been subject to an uproar (well, there was a great deal of Christmas pud to finish off. I had no time for the news).
Criticisms of the Ireland based, foul-mouthed, live slapstick sitcom include “offensive”, “racist”, “sexist” and “trashy”. If the rest of the televisual world broadcasted material that fell within the parameters of respect and decency then yes, Mrs. Brown would surely stick out like a sore thumb. I might understand the critic’s concerns, were it not for the bitter taste of The Only Way Is Essex, Geordie Shore and Made In Chelsea still very much making me hostile and suspicious of the world.
Did we forget about how offensive those Loughton bints are as a representation of Essex folk, the entirety of both genders and indeed anyone in the fashion and beauty industry with half a brain cell? Has it bypassed everyone just how truly offensive these “reality TV stars” are to their respective constituencies? And don’t even get me started on the audacity of Take Me Out and it’s human meat market. Just don’t.
The first jibe I heard was that this is rehashing the ground that Father Ted covered. Except, apparently, Mrs. Brown did it offensively. The first person to show me where Father Ted didn’t portray the Irish as devout Catholic morons who were so stupid they could barely function gets a paper hat. Dougal. That is all I have to say to you. Someone please point out where Father Ted and Mrs. Brown’s Boys differs in this way.
The actual staggering difference that I do see between the two swings in Mrs. Brown’s Boys favour actually: under the overuse of the F word and ridiculously over-dramatised situations experienced by the characters, Mrs Brown tackles real issues. Most recently this took the form of the Catholic church openly condemning the blessing of Agnes’s gay son’s marriage. Rightly (in the eyes of an atheist anyway), she accepts this point of view, but demands to know where in the bible that true love between any two people is a sin. Father Ted rarely got beyond the wonder of bricks.
Critic number two slammed Brendan O’Carroll’s recycling of old jokes, coupled with the accusation that he hires his real life family members as the cast of his on set family. Some points in reference to this:
- Over Christmas, viewer numbers for Mrs. Brown’s Boys reached astronomical heights, even overtaking the stats of our beloved Miranda Hart. Old jokes or not, they’re working.
- Leading on from that… we still put up with Bruce Forsythe. ‘Nuff said.
- Mrs. Brown’s Boys – like The Mighty Boosh – was discovered as a stage tour and brought to television more or less as it was performed in theatres. Live audience and all. Why would the cast be switched around just because it would now be seen on the gogglebox?
As for generalisation, racism and sexism claims? Yeah, the show has it’s fair share of naughty stereotypes. But I fail to see how, when Essex is presumed to compensate false eyelashes and Brylcreem for intelligence, the women of Geordie Shore tear each other’s eyes out for being slutty while the equally guilty male wins kudos for conquering two vaginas in a week and Made In Chelsea quantifies the meaning of love as “massive penis and probably not as gay as he looks”, Mrs. Brown’s Boys can really be classed as one of the major societal offenders.
I truly believe that Brendan O’Carroll cleverly uses his familiar, age old format to tackle real issues among old style audiences. It’s just sad that younger audiences have their morals and views challenged by reality TV stars who aren’t intelligent enough to get below the most superficial things this generation has to deal with. It’s the oompah loompah lookalikes – and indeed what the hell they’re doing on my TV screen – that we should be worrying about more, and not the silly but morally grounded figure that is Agnes Brown.
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