Bridget and Eamon: a show with notions above the TV Midlands

Luridly kitsch design can’t cover up the lack of fresh material in this second season

“I’ve never told this to anyone in my whole life,” says Eamon, fixing a brand new acquaintance with his customary dead-eyed stare, “but . . . I like you.”

People seem to like Bridget and Eamon too (Mondays, RTÉ Two, 9.30pm). A married couple from the Irish midlands in the benighted 1980s, they began life as a jokey reminiscence on The Republic of Telly; recurring sketch characters who appealed to a nasty brand of nostalgia. Things you'll only know if you grew up in 1980s Ireland: impoverished, unhealthy, unequal, Catholic by default, viciously competitive, somewhere between loveable and pitiable.

The characters created by Jennifer Zamparelli, a wound-up, chain-smoking housewife with glasses as big as two television sets, and Bernard O'Shea's incompetent, sour, mean simpleton, turned out to be a hit. Shucked free from the sketches and unleashed upon their own series earlier this year, the couple who could only account for the size of their family in rough estimates ("six to eight children") and who seemed terminally prone to "notions" found favourable ratings at home, secured syndication in the UK, and won Iftas for Best Comedy and Jason Butler's zippy direction. In an era when Mrs Brown's Boys can be voted the best sitcom of the century, anything is possible.

Nobody appears to be more surprised by Bridget and Eamon’s popularity than Bridget and Eamon, though. The second series, commissioned and delivered with telling speed, begins by giving them anything they want. “If only there was some couple that would move into town that we could hang out with,” seethes Bridget, and, before you can say choppy changey, an American couple, supersaturated in artificial colourings, instantly appear to answer every wish and pay for every round.


Mikey (Mark Huberman) and Barbara (Aoibhinn McGinnity) are a conspiracy of plaid and teeth and Farrah Fawcett hair, like a soap opera romance made flesh. It's the closest the episode comes to making any kind of satiric point: the awkward flowering of Ireland's obsession with Americana in the 1980s. But there's absolutely no bite in it and even by the show's very, very modest standards that feels like a retreat.

Thin as Zamparelli, O’Shea and Butler’s comedy has been so far, previous episodes framed around illegal condom dealing or competitive housewife tournaments at least poked fun at targets more satisfying than passé fashions or the “remember-when” follies of yesteryear. The joke here? Americans are credulous; Eamon is tight-fisted; and - ha! - tight fists! (The luridly kitsch design work is still the most pleasing, and often the only pleasing thing about it.)

Fans who can remember as far back as distant February, an admittedly simpler time, when Eamon first confused “swingers” for playground apparatus in a weak but quick gag, may be surprised to here find a whole episode hung around it. Or they might recall his high anxiety about not speaking “Northern Irish” when he now says the same thing about not speaking “Dublin”. Repetition is the prerogative of a sketch show, but stretched out over a sitcom, without variation, even undemanding viewers will begin to worry about diminishing returns. In this episode, Bridget and Eamon know the problem intimately; reluctant to step up their game, even at the prospect of wider fortune, they lose their new friends pretty quickly.