Mrs Brown’s Boys has picked up yet another comedy gong at the National Television Awards in the UK, much to the chagrin of critics and delight of fans.
The show’s success has been phenomenal since it first arrived on the small screen in 2011, bagging numerous awards, and becoming an ubiquitous presence at the top of the TV ratings in Ireland and the UK.
The Christmas Special broadcast on Christmas Day was the most watched show in both countries, pulling in 700,000 viewers in Ireland and a whopping 7.6m in the UK.
Meanwhile, D’Movie was the biggest selling flick in Ireland last year, grossing more than $3.8m, and it opened at number one in the UK box office.
All this despite regularly being lambasted by critics as ‘the worst show on television’ for its ‘juvenile, vulgar humour’ and terrible acting.
So what is the secret of its success? If TV execs could pin it down they’d bottle it. They can’t. It’s not easy to define what makes Mrs Brown’s Boys so compelling.
On paper it's Brendan O'Carroll wearing a dress and having the craic with members of his family. On screen it's Brendan O'Carroll wearing a dress and having the craic with members of his family. So...
It's a show that must be watched to be assessed and even then it's tough to define the appeal. But here's our take on why it's loved so very dearly...
The cast can’t act
With the exception of Brendan O’Carroll and Eilish O'Carroll, there’s a conspicuous lack of anything resembling acting skills amongst the cast. Normally this would evoke derision amongst the audience, but the fact that the cast is clearly aware of their limitations is hugely disarming.
Watching them struggle to deliver lines without cracking up at the silliness of what they have to say, or O’Carroll’s hilarious ad libs, is half the appeal of the show. In fairness, it's probably impossible to act in the presence of O'Carroll!
Brendan O’Carroll’s face
Brendan O'Carroll has a face the expressiveness of which has not been seen since Jim Carrey's visage-contorting turn in Liar Liar. He possesses a face that just makes you want to laugh.
It’s a throwback to the sitcoms of the 70s, which isn’t necessarily a good thing (have you actually watched any of those shows you grew up with lately and realised how sexist and racist and generally horrendous they were?). But, we can’t deny the pull of nostalgia. Mrs Brown's Boys is appealing to some corner of the brain we didn't even know exists anymore.
You can watch it with your gran. And your kids.
It has broad appeal. Yes, it's vulgar and the jokes are frequently questionable but there are many families who will sit around the TV and watch it together. In a world where telly is becoming more and more nice, this is increasingly rare.
It's as funny to 13-year-old boys as it is to women of 72. The innuendo goes over younger kids’ heads but there’s enough silliness and slapstick to keep them entertained. For adults it’s an easy way to switch the brain off for half an hour, and maybe even chuckle, and we all need a bit of that in our lives.
Filming before a live studio audience, with the nervy, unpredictable O’Carroll at the centre of the action, gives the show a vibrant energy. The fact the characters are played by people with a real-life family dynamic just adds to the sense of fun. There’s Mrs Brown chastising her daughter who’s really O’Carroll’s wife. Arf Arf.
Breaking the fourth wall
Mrs Brown likes to occasionally address the camera. It’s neither a novel nor a new idea, but it draws the audience at home into the show in a way they wouldn’t be if she didn’t.