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Only twit would write Walshes off so early

The twits have spoken. The Walshes, which started on RTE1 last Thursday and rolls out on BBC4 this coming Thursday is, the Irish Twitter community has decreed, a dud.

An abomination. A crime against humanity. It's worse than Leave It to Mrs O'Brien. It's worse than Upwardly Mobile. It's probably the worst sitcom ever made. Or at least the worst since the last worst sitcom ever made.

How dare Graham Linehan and his latest collaborators, Dublin comedy troupe Diet of Worms, foist this upon them?

As one reasoned commentator on Twitter put it after the first episode, Linehan should be "shot with the balls of his own shite". Ha! What a wit. Give that person their own sitcom NOW!

Another one, who didn't even feel it necessary to wait until the end of the first episode, tweeted his criticism directly to Linehan within the first five minutes. Linehan tweeted back: "Why don't you stop tweeting and watch the f***ing thing. Moron."

Gasp! Calling someone on Twitter a moron? What an affront to free speech! Never mind death by faeces; that's too merciful. Surely Linehan deserves to be hanged, drawn and quartered, but not before being flogged, flayed and dragged through the streets naked while tethered to a galloping horse?

Welcome to the overheated, overbearing Twittersphere, where all gobshites are equal and every gobshite demands the right to be heard. Where every molehill is swiftly built up into a mountain. Where every topic, whether it's Russia's invasion of Ukraine or a television comedy, prompts the kind of hysterical "omigod" overreaction you'd normally expect from a group of bitchy teenage girls sniping about a classmate behind her back.

DYSFUNCTIONAL

As a gauge of the ludicrous importance placed on what people are saying on Twitter, Linehan calling someone a moron was deemed worthy of coverage in the newspapers.

As the foremost television comedy writer of his generation, who has solely or in partnership created four enduring classics in Father Ted, Black Books, The IT Crowd and the sketch show Big Train, you can understand why Linehan was annoyed.

But to be fair, he's an enthusiastic user of Twitter himself with 352,000 followers, so he should probably expect this kind of thing.

For what it's worth, I liked The Walshes, which features a dysfunctional suburban Dublin family that first appeared in the Diet of Worms web sitcom The Taste of Home. Linehan had no involvement in that, although he clearly saw plenty of potential for a jump to television.

It's impossible to say how much Linehan, who also directs the series, brought to the table in terms of the script, but there's a pleasant whiff of Ted-style madness about it. The characters – all but one of whom, despairing daughter Ciara (Amy Stephenson), is not an idiot of some stripe – are immensely likeable and played with gusto by a talented cast.

The Walshes' friend, lugubrious handyman Martin (the unfailingly excellent Owen Roe), who for ever seems to be repairing things in the family's house and emerges, wraith-like, from behind the TV and the fridge at unexpected moments, is a standout character.

I don't know if, 16 years from now, we'll be talking about The Walshes with the same affection we talk about Father Ted, but I'm prepared to wait for the remaining two episodes before passing a final judgment.

It's worth remembering that it took a while for viewers and critics to warm to Ted, despite the revisionist myth that everyone loved it from the start.

A lot of sitcoms need time to bed in and find their audience.

Only Fools and Horses was facing cancellation after its second series, until repeats of the first one started picking up viewers. Early reviews of Fawlty Towers expressed dismay that one of the Pythons should have turned to such an old-fashioned, conventional sitcom.

Had Twitter been around back then and television executives been influenced by the 140-character assassins the way they are today, we might not remember any of them.

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