Returning to BBC2 almost entirely without publicity or particular ratings success, the second series of Grandma’s House has, nonetheless, made a welcome return. Written by and starring ex-Never Mind the Buzzcocks host turned stand-up comedian Simon Amstell, it’s a low-key comedy featuring Amstell playing a version of himself surrounded by a bizarre, fueding fictional family.
Early criticism of the first series centrered upon Amstell’s inability to act very well, failing to appreciate that this was half the joke; he’s playing himself – neurotic, vulnerable, self-aware, and just trying to live with some happiness. Critics eventually learned to enjoy the series, and its positive critical reception can be thanked for its return.
The shows style is fairly unique compared to its various British contemporaries. Amstell awkwardly wanders through scenes dispensing his trademark sardonic wit, which does occassionally make for odd viewing; the self-consciousness of the show does get a little wearing at times, but it’s nice to see a comedy showing a more self-deprecatory side, and not trying to sledgehammer its viewers with a constant barrage of “jokes.” If you want that, I would recommend something like Not Going Out. I’m not sure why that’s still being made, other than providing endless material for late-night Dave repeats until 2026 …
Further, it’s also nice to see a show whose main character is gay who isn’t played by John Barrowman, and without that being the driving force of the show or repeatedly mentioned. The new episode focused on Simon’s one night stand with a boy a bit too young for him who drugged him with MDMA, but whereas this would be a controversial plot line in a more hyperbolic show, here it’s treated as normative, and with endearing awkwardness (such as shouting “No erections in the kitchen!” when sexual tension rears its terrifying head). Events which would otherwise be dramatic plot points are usurped by mundane family tensions, occassionally punctuated by Grandma’s offer of snacks to defuse arguments.
So, if you prefer comedy that’s a bit smarter, then I’d heartily reccomend you catch up with this sleeper hit. With a confidence in its wit that flows direct from a brillaint ensemble cast and great writing, Grandma’s House is a show that deserves far more of an audience.