The latest guilty pleasure at our house — not that we need another one — is a BBC sitcom called “Mrs. Brown’s Boys.” It can be found on Britbox, a nice break from all those British murder mystery series.
Actor/writer Brendan O’Carrol plays the foul-mouthed but kind-hearted head of a Irish household. In drag. Sort of Archie Bunker meets Dame Edna, in Dublin.
Not only does O’Carrol break the fourth wall, but he smashes it to bits. Each episode opens with a long shot of the studio audience and the show’s multiple sets, leaving no doubt this is just pretend. Each episode closes with a theater-style curtain call. In between, O’Carrol talks to the camera and the studio audience. The actors often breakup at his ad libs. Studio cameras and operators get caught (accidentally on purpose?) on camera. Some of O’Carrol’s bits seen to surprise the other actors. All of this while spoofing traditional family sitcoms.
The family has problems. One of Mrs. Brown’s sons is fresh out of prison. Her best friend’s (unseen) husband can’t seem to stay out of the hospital. Her daughter can’t keep a boyfriend. Mrs. Brown seems to be the only one who doesn’t realize her older son is gay. And so on and so on.
But the storyline is secondary. Even to the show’s wardrobe. Mrs. Brown’s seems to be as fond of house dresses and half-buttoned sweaters as she is of using the f-word. Her younger son’s job in marketing requires him to wear a different, mostly furryish animal outfit in each episode. Meanwhile, aging Granddad can’t seem to keep his clothes on.
Season 1 ends with the entire cast breaking into a Broadway-style song-and-dance production number and audience sing-along complete with pyrotechnics and confetti cannons, all at the end of a mock funeral scene. (You’d have to see it to even begin to understand.)
There’s never been a sitcom quite like “Mrs. Brown’s Boys.” Noel Coward, it ain’t. In fact, it’s very much a hot mess of a sitcom. But a very, very funny hot mess.