Jason Byrne, respected circuit success, has created a sitcom. It should be fantastic, shouldn’t it? Well yes, it should. Unfortunately what Byrne has given us, though, is far from ‘fantastic’. It’s Father Figure, and while its creator and star is a circuit success, this is a TV turkey.
When will writers realise that you can’t recreate the success of shows like Miranda and Mrs Brown’s Boys simply by chucking some stereotypes into an everyday situation, giving them some painfully obvious jokes (a couple of which may make use of the word ‘arse’ – naughty!), drafting in an abnormally over-excited audience and labelling it ‘family friendly’? God that phrase strikes dread into me. That and ‘traditional sitcom’. Now that’s not because I dislike those areas of comedy but because they’re too often a mere imitation of the aforementioned monster hits. Of course, it could be a coincidence that Jason Byrne’s sitcom about a dysfunctional Irish family, featuring a domineering mammy and dozy granddad, has appeared at the height of Brendan O’Carroll’s sitcom about a dysfunctional Irish family, featuring a domineering mammy and dozy granddad’s popularity, but he surely can’t expect people not to draw comparisons.
The difference between Mrs Brown’s Boys and Father Figure, however, is that the former is funny. Well, when there isn’t an – of course unintentional – “blooper”. Father Figure tries to be funny. In fact, Father Figure thinks it’s funny – but it just isn’t. Sorry. Far from being funny, it was so tedious, such an utter waste of time that it became almost impossible to bear.
In case you don’t know the basic premise, Jason Byrne plays a dad who often does things wrong. That’s it. That’s the long and short of it. Whether it’s inadvertently making the neighbours think that he is licking poo off of his son or ironing a steak, Tom Whyte (Byrne) just gets it all wrong. And how unbelievably hilarious Byrne clearly thinks it is.
It’s almost as if he didn’t read his own script, as if he wrote a line here and there over a few weeks’ worth of bus journeys, and when he reached thirty pages said to himself, ‘That’ll do’ and handed it into the BBC. Didn’t he at least take a glance at the first episode and realise that it was joke-free? Actually, I’ll put it another way: that it was free of any real jokes? Any funny jokes?
All it seemed to be was a constant leap from one gaffe to another, with disapproving neighbours, a stressed-out wife and Pauline McLynn (pictured) all cropping up at regular intervals. Just like Tom’s life, it was a complete mess.
The point of having a family like the Whytes is for all of the characters to be irritated by each other, while the audience find them simply hilarious, just like The Royle Family, Only Fools and Horses, My Family, even Mrs Brown’s Boys. Need I go on? This show, on the other hand, has everyone irritated: the characters, the audience, and no doubt the BBC bigwigs when they realise that this drivel is almost universally disliked.
It would have been bad enough if a new writer had penned Father Figure. In fact, that could even possibly have been forgiven. But the fact that such a much-loved stand-up as Jason Byrne is responsible is simply baffling.
Images courtesy of BBC and Idil Sukan, ©BBC
Father Figure is on Wednesdays at 10:35pm on BBC1
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