A frequent criticism of Mrs Brown’s Boys is that it rehashes the hoariest elements of 1970s comedy – conjuring up, in the process, the sitcom equivalent of a themed menu of fondue, Babycham and Angel Delight.
Brendan O’Carroll’s unstoppable chortle-fest certainly isn’t shy about its love of single entrendres and nudge-nudge wink-wink puerility. Or the idea that a man dressed as a woman is inherently hilarious. To that formula the Christmas Day Special (RTÉ One, 9.35pm) adds another component: big syrupy spoonfuls of earnestness.
“The streets were empty but our hearts were full,” says O’Carroll’s Agnes Brown in the character’s annual kitchen table address at the end of the episode titled Mammy’s Mechanical Merriment (to be followed, a week hence, by a New Year’s Day broadcast). “I got vaccinated to protect you – and you got vaccinated to protect me,” he adds – a Santa Claus sentiment we’d all love to believe.
Fans are sure to enjoy the gag-a-minute pace – even if some of those gags involved Mrs Brown's best friend Winnie thinking 'put on a pot' (of tea) means taking drugs
The rest of the instalment is a grand old game of Mrs Brown bingo. O’Carroll and his ensemble deliver zingers about “nut juice” (almond milk) and “vulcan” (vegan) diets. You keep expecting Steptoe and Son or Dad’s Army to call to say they want their jokes back. Although, on second thoughts, they might be happier for O’Carroll to keep material for himself.
There’s the vaguest outline of a story. Buster Brady (Danny O’Carroll, Brendan’s son), the best friend of Mrs Brown’s son, has put up a tree in her house but to Agnes’s horror the “tree” is actually just a ladder. The heart-warming reveal at the end is that the contraption magically turns into a twinkling Xmas spruce. Meanwhile, Brown’s daughter Cathy (O’Carroll’s wife, Jennifer Gibney) laments the devastating impact of the pandemic on her dating life.
This is all by way of build up to a murder mystery night at the local boozer in Finglas, which comes to us from an alternative universe where the pubs are still open after dark.
O'Carroll reminds us that he is as sincere as he is potty-mouthed as he wishes viewers a Happy Christmas
O’Carroll’s comedy is super-charged marmite television. And fans are sure to enjoy the gag-a-minute pace – even if some of those gags involved Mrs Brown’s best friend Winnie (Eilish O’Carroll, Brendan’s sister) thinking “put on a pot” (of tea) means taking drugs. Conversely, those who frown at the mention of Mrs Brown will probably find it unwatchable. They may well be in a minority, though, given that 486,000 tuned into last year’s special. There is evidently an audience for O’Carroll’s boil-in-the-bag wit.
Or maybe the appeal goes beyond the humour. O’Carroll reminds us that he is as sincere as he is potty-mouthed as he wishes viewers a Happy Christmas. “This is ending,” he says of the pandemic. “ Good times are a coming.”
It is hardly an original sentiment. It may not even be entirely accurate. Nonetheless, O’Carroll clearly means what he says. Next, the cast join in on a closing hour rendition of Fairytale of New York (minus the controversial lyrics). As they do, the tacky one-liners and end-of-pier guffaws give way to a generous serving of Christmas sentimentality.