A blast FROM THE PAST

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Close Up - – An­drew Fen­ton

Has there ever been a more un­likely TV smash hit than Mrs Brown’s Boys? An old-fash­ioned sit­com, it could have been dropped through a worm­hole in space from the 1970s, when a 57-year-old man in drag, swear­ing at his fam­ily and wink­ing at the cam­era was much more fash­ion­able.

Au­di­ences adore the show, with the first episode of the new sea­son draw­ing more than a mil­lion view­ers in Aus­tralia. Yet crit­ics are baf­fled by its suc­cess.

Dianne But­ler uses the phrase “spec­tac­u­larly not funny” and the UK’s Daily Mail branded it the “worst com­edy ever made”, yet it re­cently won Bri­tain’s National TV Award for Best Sit­com.

Bren­dan O’Car­roll, who dreamed up the char­ac­ter in a Dublin ra­dio stu­dio 20 years ago, ad­mits he’s as gob-smacked as the crit­ics by its suc­cess.

The only ex­pla­na­tion he can of­fer is that it fills a gap in the mar­ket, left by TV com­edy’s cur­rent pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with be­ing too clever by half.

“We’ve dis­cov­ered a lost au­di­ence,” he says. “I think com­edy for­got the au­di­ence for a while. It was left be­hind (af­ter) Dad’s Army and Fawlty Tow­ers.

“It’s not new, it’s noth­ing spe­cial, it’s just funny – y’know?

“But at the end of the day I don’t write for TV crit­ics or theatre crit­ics or ra­dio crit­ics – I write for the au­di­ence.”

When the BBC ap­proached O’Car­roll, seek­ing to cap­i­talise on the pop­u­lar­ity of his stage shows, he told the pro­duc­ers he wouldn’t up­date the char­ac­ter or stop break­ing the fourth wall (giv­ing a wink to the au­di­ence or leav­ing in mis­takes).

“It was one of the things that kept us off for the two-and-a-half years it took the BBC to con­vince me to do the show,” he says.

O’Car­roll has now guided the char­ac­ter, Agnes Brown, through 400 ra­dio episodes, five nov­els, a film (star­ring An­jel­ica Huston), an­other (star­ring O’Car­roll to be­gin shoot­ing in Septem­ber), three TV se­ries, an an­i­mated pilot and hit stage plays.

With so much orig­i­nal ma­te­rial to draw on, the man who con­tin­ues to write ev­ery word Mrs Brown ut­ters says there’s lit­tle chance of him run­ning out of ideas for the sit­com.

“It sounds like it’s a dif­fi­cult task, but if you take the his­tory of the show for

tele­vi­sion, there’s plenty to play with so there’s no ques­tion about whether or not I have a plot­line. She’s just that kind of char­ac­ter. You put the most or­di­nary of sit­u­a­tions in the way and they’ll de­velop into some­thing comedic.’’

O’Car­roll rel­ishes the freedom to do and say as he pleases when he’s made up in the skirt and wig.

“Agnes gets away with things I’d never get away with,” he says. “Agnes Brown can get away with any­thing.’’

Aus­tralian au­di­ences will have the op­por­tu­nity to meet Mrs Brown in per­son on her tour next year, along with O’Car­roll’s sis­ter, son and d daugh­ter, son’s best friend, daugh­ter-in-law ter-in-law and three of his old mates, all l of whom star with him in stage and TV pro­duc­tions. ns.

“I can’t get over the suc­cess in Aus­tralia,” O’Car­roll says.

“I just can’t wait to get t over there.”

Mrs Brown’s Boys

Thurs­day, 9.15pm, Seven

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