The show created controversy even before it started
All Round To Mrs Brown’s had generated controversy before it even aired, with grumblings over the decision to push forward the evening news by 15 minutes to accommodate Brendan O’Carroll’s new chat show.
O’Carroll is a superstar of Irish comedy, with his regular sitcom watched by millions in Ireland and Britain. On the other hand, his humour is undoubtedly an acquired taste: if you like your laughs delivered with wit and sophistication, you’d best move along. Reasonable people can therefore disagree over whether RTE was correct to shunt the news out of its traditional 9pm berth.
What was clear from the first episode of the RTE-BBC co-production, however, is that O’Carroll and his team are feeling their way through the chat show format. In fact, to call this a “chat” show was a stretch, as the comic was more comfortable clowning around his regular troupe of actors than chinwagging with celebs.
There were only two guests, Pamela Anderson and Judy Murray, mother of Scottish tennis champion Andy. Both seemed quite baffled – Anderson, in particular, communicated deep unease with every breathy coo and startled glance (there were a lot of startled glances) .
O’Carroll’s line of questioning was as nuanced as his one-liners. He asked former Baywatch star Anderson if she could swim and give mouth to mouth resuscitation and was fascinated that Murray had been mistaken for a boy when growing up. A chef also popped up with recipe advice and Murray’s own mother was invited on in honour of mother’s day.
Tellingly, the host was far more at ease trading wise-cracks with the studio audience. A woman was dragged down to whip Mrs Brown’s neighbour Buster with a tea-towel and walked away with a dishwasher for her troubles. The “Mammy of the Week” accolade went to a lady who swore like a marine.
Here, O’Carroll’s strengths as a raconteur made a difference. He clearly extracted greater enjoyment from bantering with punters than cozying up to celebs. The exception was James Blunt, who giggled as he planted a smacker on Mrs Brown’s lips.
With additional silliness and less of an emphasis on celebrity interviews, All Round To Mrs Browns’ could be a hit with O’Carroll’s fanbase. For now, it remains a cheerful but very messy work in progress.