TV review: Friday Night Dinner

Dinner is ruined by a lack of laughs

By Jennifer Lipman, June 19, 2014


Making a meal of it: Friday Night Dinner mainstays Paul Ritter, Tamsin Greig, Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal

Making a meal of it: Friday Night Dinner mainstays Paul Ritter, Tamsin Greig, Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal

There were high hopes for Friday Night Dinner when it began in 2011. After all, here was subject matter rife with comic potential, a talented ensemble including the always excellent Tamsin Greig and, in Robert Popper, a writer who was working off his own experiences of Shabbat meal mayhem in Edgware. What was not to like? Plenty, as it turns out.

Instead of being a mature comedy about realistic characters, it has focused on outrageous stereotypes, slapstick, and awkward humour.

In other words, it committed the same mistakes of so many British sitcoms and just wasn't very funny.

But with a third series starting this week, there must be some reason people are still watching. Certainly the Goodman family have not changed much.

The boys are still provoking each other, regressing to teenage bickering the moment they step back into their parents' house in a fairly accurate representation of a twentysomething returning home for Shabbat.

For some reason mum tolerates her bumbling man-child husband

Mum (Greig) is still in charge of the household, for some unknown reason tolerating the bumbling man-child that is her husband (Paul Ritter).

Within the first five minutes, he prances about in his underpants and navigates a gag involving dog excrement and a toilet while she looks on aghast. The dynamic has not shifted one iota.

The focus of the first episode is on the older son, Adam (Simon Bird) bringing home a girlfriend for the first time.

To be fair, the show fully captures the awkwardness of explaining your own family's bizarre behaviour to an outsider.

Likewise, it's relatively entertaining to see Greig fully embrace the stereotype of a Jewish mother with chupahs in her eyes.

Inevitably, the girlfriend has her own complicated family, and mayhem ensues. There's also a sub-plot involving the neighbour's obnoxious eight-year-old daughter, prompting the only (and actually fairly offensive) Jewish reference in the episode.

If you've liked Friday Night Dinner to this point, then you probably won't be disappointed.

But if contemplating a first-time, or even return visit to the Goodman household in expectation of laughs, save yourself the bother.

The series starts Friday and episodes will be on 4oD

Last updated: 1:04pm, June 19 2014