08/10/2012 15:13 | By Sean Marland, contributor, MSN TV

TV review: Friday Night Dinner is a winner

Channel 4 comedy Friday Night Dinner, starring Simon Bird, returned for its second series.


Cast of Friday Night Dinner (© Cast of Friday Night Dinner. Image Channel 4)


Summary

Robert Popper's warm-hearted autobiographical comedy about a weekly family meal returns for seconds (you see what we did there?). But will it be able to recreate the magic on a Sunday night?

Highlight

Paul Ritter is brilliant as the lugubrious father and he remains the most well-formed and naturally funny character of the series. What's more, despite being under the weather, he STILL hasn't bothered putting on a jumper. "I'm bloody boiling," he moans constantly.

Lowlight

For a woman of her comic pedigree (Green Wing, Black Books and Episodes - if it's your thing) Tamsin Greig is slightly underused here. She's essentially babysitting every male that comes across her path and could definitely handle a few more punchlines.

Full review

Friday Night Dinner debuted to a mixed reception last year, but the show soon found its groove and audience, leading to whisperings of an American remake (will those people ever learn?).

Yet nothing demonstrates how pleased Channel 4 are with this sitcom than the new day and time they've given it; the post-Homeland time slot. The US drama is so hot right now, it looked the perfect lead in for Robert Popper's sitcom.

Unfortunately, this strategy appears to have backfired as Friday Night Dinner's overnight average was under a million (Homeland's was 2.3m, including time shift viewing on Channel 4 +1).

Channel 4's duo won't attract the same level of audience that ITV1's Downton Abbey/X Factor hybrid monster pulls in, but this excellent yet slightly alternative combination could be a winner in other ways.

"Friday Night Dinner is as good as it was last year"

For its part, Friday Night Dinner is as good as it was last year, consistently finding the humour in a familiar family set-up.

Much was made of Simon Bird's involvement back when the show debuted in February 2011 - Channel 4 even briefly billed Friday Night Dinner as 'The New Inbetweeners', but when all that hubbub died away, the show started to find its voice. It was almost as if the sitcom grew because it took people a while to work out that it wasn't the new Inbetweeners.

Simon seems to be making a concerted effort to move away from The Inbetweeners' Will. Admittedly, he still has a long way to go, but I didn't hear his trademark 'brilliant!' once in this first episode.

What's more, he and Tom Rosenthal are both adept at playing a couple of parent-baiting boy-men. Their tomfoolery makes for great fun and will be familiar to most people with siblings, even if the angles have been skewed for comic effect.

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But it's their uber-strange neighbour Jim (Mark Heap) who often acts as the show's axis. As a character, he's irritating, inherently unfunny and the fact that the Goodman family continually tolerate him is implausible. Yet in comedy terms, he's a true playmaker. You definitely wouldn't open the door to him though...

Friday Night Dinner is a slightly more slapstick experience than Grandma's House - the other comedy about the everyday goings-on of a Jewish household.

But despite accusations that nothing actually happens (a very en vogue comedy trope at the moment) this return comes to a satisfying climax; the demise of Adam's cherished cuddly toy was the funniest lawnmower scene since the third season of Mad Men. Good to have that Friday night feeling again, even if it is on Sunday night.

  • Verdict: Humorous return for one of TV's funniest sitcoms.

    Star grade


What people on Twitter said

@Thomkirwin - "Still chuckling today after watching 'Friday Night dinner' last night. Brilliant stuff

‏@Bakerloo1980 - "Friday Night Dinner. Beyond ridiculous!"

The views in this article are those of the author alone and not of MSN or Microsoft

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