Like it or not, Mrs Brown’s Boys – with its crude toilet humour and slapstick comedy – is a staple of the Christmas schedule. This year is no different and we’ll get two doses of humour from Agnes and her eccentric bunch of friends and family.
COVID-19 is at the heart of the specials, with plenty of gags surrounding lockdown boredom, wearing a mask, elbow bumps and those who excessively bought toilet roll – Agnes (Brendan O’Carroll), I’m looking at you. At one point, the team poke fun at the amount of repeats we’ve seen on TV, no less from Mrs Brown herself.
In true Mrs Brown’s Boys fashion, the raucous comedy at once pokes fun at itself, the actors and the notion of a sitcom, with O’Carroll turning to the camera at multiple points for a tongue-in-cheek breaking-the-fourth-wall reference – and with all of us having now spent a good part of the year in lockdown or living with pandemic restrictions, laughing at some of the more unusual side-effects of the lockdown proves a fruitful ground for comedy.
In Mrs Brown’s world, the Christmas tree was adorned with a festive bit of PPE, poor Winnie went on a desperate hunt for a single toilet roll and Agnes lamented how pubs have had to change (though Scotch Eggs were kept firmly out of sight).
Above all, what’s apparent is how comfortable O’Carroll is entertaining the nation at Christmas. When the BBC’s schedule was announced, a portion of the nation groaned (as every year) at the thought of “another Mrs Brown’s Boys episode”, completely ignoring that not only does it pull in major viewing figures each year, but also that’s not by accident – this show’s insanely popular. Only in January this year did O’Carroll and family scoop an NTA for Best Comedy Programme (an accolade the show has now claimed five times).
Sure, Mrs Brown’s Boys can be divisive. The humour isn’t exactly subtle and some of the gags do get a little repetitive. But that’s also the charm. When you tune in, you know exactly what you’re going to get. That’s quite comforting at Christmas. You know you’re going to have a bit of a laugh, a cry, and have your heart-warmed by Agnes’ final Jerry Springer-style ending.
Isn’t it also the point of comedy that some things will resonate and others won’t? Claiming superiority because your taste is elevated above Mrs Brown’s Boys misses the point of taste entirely. People can like what they like, and if it’s slapstick comedy from O’Carroll or surreal Mighty Boosh scenes… you know what? That’s fine.
In a year that’s been difficult, divisive, and at times, very lonely, allow Mrs Brown’s Boys to bring millions around the TV to have a good old giggle at some on-the-nose jokes.
The point of comedy is that it makes you happy. If you, the individual, finish a 30 minute episode wiping tears away from your face, or remembering that hilarious gag at a time you need a boost, then it’s done its job. And for fans of Mrs Brown’s Boys, O’Carroll’s Christmas special will do just that.
It’s summed up by Agnes herself at the end of the episode, perfectly. “Where would we be without the TV? You know, we were all determined to make this show this year. Nothing would stop us because in the middle of all the chaos and hurly burley that come at us, this year we need a laugh. I wish we could give this whole year a makeover.”
O’Carroll continues: “Comedy will always give us a lift, you can be sure of it. When times are tough we stand by you.”
After a particularly grim year, O’Carroll hits the nail on the head. When in doubt, and when the stability of the entertainment industry has been particularly wobbly, shows like Mrs Brown’s Boys will go above and beyond to bring people who love it some much needed light.