“Here’s a little ditty for God’s sickest woman,” Frank Marron, the antihero of Frank Of Ireland, yells out during an impromptu funeral gig. He furiously strums his guitar, to the absolute horror of the assembled mourners (including his ex-girlfriend, the granddaughter of the deceased). Standing at the back of the pews, Frank’s best friend Doofus gives him encouraging nods. Shortly afterwards there’s a brawl at the altar, and one character gets an ill-timed erection.
If coffin-side fish-hooking sounds both outrageous and supremely silly, that’s because it is. Frank Of Ireland does not take itself seriously: the six-part series boasts plenty of clever one-liners, but as equally important are the visual gags and slapstick. The laughs are relentless; I’d recommend taking short breaks in-between episodes, if only to catch your breath. Episode one also features some excellent toilet humour, when a character in a chokehold passes out and soils himself.
Frank Of Ireland is the brainchild of brothers Brian and Domhnall Gleeson (sons of Brendan Gleeson – more on him later), and Domhnall’s childhood friend Michael Moloney. Brian plays Frank, a 32-year-old man-child in every sense of the term, still living at home with his mum Mary (an excellent Pom Boyd).
Frank wants to be a musician, a career choice that only his gullible best friend Doofus (Domhnall Gleeson) still supports. Doofus even agrees to sell Frank’s merch during the funeral service (“EPs with you”).
Each episode pays homage to a different film (for example, Memento and Home Alone), a loose overall structure that pays off in the finale’s closing moments. But each episode also works as a standalone, with its own distinct feel (although the dark humour remains consistent).
Episode one quickly sets up the key characters and their relationships with one another. Although Frank Of Ireland could be seen as a break-up comedy, the show’s most important relationship is a friendship. Best friend Doofus functions as both Frank’s hype-man and enabler, and as the sensible angel sat on his shoulder. He’s sympathetic and a bit of a pushover; he’s frequently strong-armed into skipping out on his paid job as a supermarket cashier, in order to better support Frank’s outlandish schemes. When they both attend a wake in episode one, Doofus is on hand with a stop-watch to time Frank’s scheduled weeping (“Five more minutes!”), and to later follow him into an MMA ring for an ill-advised beginner’s training session.
The chemistry between the Gleeson brothers truly makes the series, but they’re surrounded by an excellent supporting cast – including their father Brendan (“Mad-Eye” Moody in the Harry Potter films), who guest stars in a hilarious, surprise role near the end of the show’s run.
I could go into greater depth about the show’s movie references, or the little twist at the end of episode six – but all I really care about or need to say is that I laughed from start to finish. Frank Of Ireland is comedy with an edge, but at its heart is a perfectly cast odd-couple bromance.
Frank Of Ireland is coming to Channel 4 in the UK on 15th April at 10pm, and will be available on All4. The series is set to air on Amazon Prime Video from 16th April 2021 in the US, Canada, and Australia.
Visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight, or visit our dedicated Drama hub for all the latest news. You can read our Big RT Interview with Brian and Domhnall Gleeson here.