A look at the lighter side

Brendan O’Regan checks out some comedy offerings

This week I thought I’d dip into a few comedy shows …. I needed a laugh.

One of my favourites, the adult comedy series Parks and Recreation returned recently for a new season to RTÉ 2, buried in the late Tuesday night schedule and also to be found, a series behind, on BBC 4 Wednesday nights. Amy Poehler (pictured) stars as Lesley Knope, an idealistic public servant with a collection of odd co-workers. As with the American version of The Office there’s an unseen camera following the characters around and they get to make sly comments or glances in that direction. It has a light touch, is cheerful and good-humoured, sometimes touching and sometimes crude, one of RTE 2’s better comic offerings. One of the main characters, Ron, a public servant and secret jazz singer, is against ‘big government’, regards his ex-wives as demons and tries to do as little as possible. In a recent episode he said he had time for religion but wouldn’t tolerate anyone asking him what his own religion was – none of their business! Another particularly hilarious episode last week featured Lesley before a tribunal for carrying on a secret romance with one of her superiors.

I’ve been catching up on the American version of that Office series, showing until recently on the 3e channel. It’s much more adult oriented than Parks and Recreation and the characters are not as likeable. Steve Carrell (pictured) plays Michael, the most obnoxious and cringe-inducing boss you could possibly have, while the staff range from vain to promiscuous, with Jim and Pam the only ones half decent. Angela is supposed to be the most religious character, but she’s emotionally cold, haughty, and very loose of morals. It’s hard to warm to but it can be very funny at times.

Another favourite, Outnumbered (pictured), has just returned for a new series to BBC 1, Wednesday nights, and has lost none of its comic edge. Hugh Dennis is the gangly lead, a harassed father who has no time for political correctness, which often lands him in trouble. It’s fascinating to see the child actors growing through the series. The young daughter, Karen, was very precocious as a little girl, but now is a little more muted as she heads for secondary school. She still can’t handle not being a winner at everything leading to various degrees of meltdown at a swimming competition. Ben, the youngest, has grown the most physically, and has gone from being a pathological liar or fantasist to being quite an amiable optimist. The ensemble playing is excellent and apparently some of the script is ad-libbed. Its best moments are the awkward ones, especially when the family causes embarrassment at social occasions. Religion doesn’t figure much, except when occasionally the children ask awkward questions the parents aren’t comfortable with. There’s the odd cheap shot, for example one minor character last week said that teachers were second only to priests in the child abuse stakes! Political commentary is thrown in for good measure with the father getting it some digs at Tony Blair in last week’s episode.

I’ve tried another new show Brooklyn Nine-Nine (pictured), showing on RTÉ 2 Monday nights and Channel 4 Friday nights. I’ve tried two episodes and can’t stand it. Andy Samberg plays a smart alec cop with the usual bunch of odd colleagues, but he tries too hard to be funny and it becomes just embarrassing and irritating. I’m afraid I couldn’t find any redeeming features in this one – it’s gratuitously crude to no great effect, the situations and characters are clichéd and the laughs are famine-scarce.

Finally, back to the old reliable Everybody Loves Raymond, still showing on Channel 4 every morning. In a recent episode religion figured large, in an uneasy way. Ray’s brother Robert is engaged to Amy. His parents are Catholic, hers evangelical Christian and rather stuffy about it – the latter is a rather caricatured portrayal (recently they were doing a Jesus jigsaw!). They are particularly shocked that Robert has been ‘staying over’ with Amy. She declares they have decided this pre-marital relationship is not a sin, causing more consternation. Ray’s family, as usual, causes embarrassment and Amy’s father suggests the two families don’t share the same values, leading to further offence. Ray’s wife Debra gets the two families praying together, which goes well until Ray’s father makes it competitive.

Respectful? Borderline! Funny? Yes!




Pick of the Week

Film: Doubt

RTÉ 1 Sat (night) Feb 15, 12.05 am, BBC 1 Sun 11.25 pm

(2008) Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman. A Catholic school principal questions a priest's ambiguous relationship with a student.



EWTN Tues  Feb 18, 9.30 am, Thurs 7.30 pm

Fr Owen Gorman talks with Fr Bede McGregor about Frank Duff's intense love

of the Eucharist.



TG4 Tues Feb 18, 10.25 pm

After the Rwanda genocide a drumming troupe helps to build new relationships and heal the wounds of the past.