Even before I watched this comedy, I knew I was going to hate it. Comments from friends ran the gamut from: "I would rather have my teeth pulled than watch this again" to "I would rather have my eyes gouged out with a fork than watch this again."
When I settled down to see it, I made sure I had a fork handy, which, after 10 minutes, I was indeed gripping rather too hard. But then a strange thing happened. I started to chuckle.
As the title suggests, the action takes place on Friday nights as the family assembles for dinner. In fact, apart from the occasional reference, this is as Jewish as it gets - there is no challah, no brachot and no Palwin. Yet the situation, and probably the comedy, will be familiar to anyone who is Jewish and has a family.
The humour tends to be broad - there is a lot of hiding in bin bags, pouring of salt into each other's drinks and unexpected rings on the doorbell. This was at first very irritating and a bit embarrassing. But then you quickly realise that the point of Friday Night Dinner is embarrassment. Hard-of-hearing dad Martin (Paul Ritter) is intensely embarrassing to twentysomething sons Adam and Jonny (Simon Bird and Adam Rosenthal) who are, in turn, intensely embarrassing to each other and their mother, Jackie, beautifully played by Tamsin Greig. And then there is the very embarrassing neighbour, Jim…
Although most of the sitcom cliches are visited at one point or another, Friday Night Dinner manages to be fresh, edgy and some of the writing, by Robert Popper, is inspired.
This week's episode - the last in the series - in which Adam is set up with family friend Tanya is so hysterically excruciating you will probably end up watching it from behind the sofa. It is a must for anyone who has spent Friday night dinners with an annoying sibling and an embarrassing dad, which probably accounts for most of us.