Father Figure, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews
Father Figure, BBC One
Father Figure, BBC One
Irish comic's radio sitcom gets a gaudy TV makeover
Coming to it fresh, it’s hard to imagine Father Figure as the Radio 2 serial it apparently began life as. The first episode of the six-part series is driven by what some would call "visual gags" or "physical comedy", as if writer and star Jason Byrne was so excited by the new medium that he decided to throw everything he could at the camera to see what stuck.
I say "some", because your mileage may vary on the comic potential of a small child, covered from head to toe in chocolate spread, running around the family home chanting “I’m a human poo!”. And I say "everything", because what gets thrown at the camera - and some of the actors - in the space of 25 minutes includes baked beans, mashed potato, chocolate mousse and a seven-tier wedding cake modelled on the castle that Disney’s Sleeping Beauty calls home.
You’d think after that ringing endorsement of their neighbour’s cooking they would have asked for a takeaway instead
Byrne plays Tom Whyte; distinguishable only from a long line of so far, so stereotypical hapless TV dads by his Irish accent. He has two boys, an overbearing mother, a laid-back dad, a hardworking wife and an oafish best friend. He means well, but everything he attempts goes horribly wrong. Here he tried to cook dinner for the neighbours to apologise after covering them with baked beans following an accident with the barbecue. You’d think after that ringing endorsement of their neighbour’s cooking they would have asked for a takeaway instead, but then we would have missed watching Byrne attempt to tenderise a piece of beef with a copy of Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals in what was the show’s only genuine laugh.
Stranger still was the number of people who invited themselves to this disaster waiting to happen. Tom’s best friend Roddy (Michael Smiley, above right, with Byrne and cake) apparently wasn’t summoned but was still asked to bring dessert - that’s where the wedding cake came in - and his mother, played by Pauline McLynn, was so convinced of failure she brought a perfectly-cooked roast chicken in her handbag. There was also another neighbour, whose name was barely worth learning, who kept popping up every five minutes trying to invite himself. Given the level that the show pitched itself at from the beginning, the fate of that cake was sealed the first time a character shouted, “Watch the cake, it’s for the neighbours”, but the ending was far too Noel’s House Party to satisfy a grown-up audience.
And that, ultimately, is the problem with Father Figure. Despite the late time slot, the occasional swearing and some painful double entendres, there’s something relentlessly PG about Byrne’s schoolboy enthusiasm and the show’s reliance on poo jokes and food fights. Still, the inexplicable numbers of people who enjoyed Mrs Brown’s Boys (with which Father Figure shares an executive producer) will probably love it.
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