Wednesday, 18 August 2010

'GRANDMA'S HOUSE' 1.2 - "The Day Simon Decided It Might Be A Nice Idea To Surprise His Mother With A Gift"

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

I'm not going to review this second episode the usual way, I'm just going to add seven more thoughts to the pile.

1. The biggest problem is undoubtedly still co-creator/writer Simon Amstell. His acting is shaky and woeful compared to the talented cast he's surrounded with. This inability to act does give his on-screen character more of a timorous feel (you're almost willing him to hold his own in a scene, like a parent watching their kid in a school play), but I just can't relax into the show when he's the focus.

2. The rest of the cast are very good, particularly Rebecca Front as Simon's spirited mother. I've enjoyed Front's performances since The Day Today, but this really does feel like she's stretching beyond her comfort zone and doing really great work. A very plausible "proud mother" type with embarrassing tendencies (like breaking into a rendition of Beyonce's "Single Ladies")

3. The script can be very strong at times with some great one-liners -- but it often gets swallowed by verbal diarrhoea, too. Some scenes intended to be nimble back-and-forth's become mired in a glue of people interrupting or talking at crossed purposes. There have been a few times when I've found myself tuning out.

4. It was mentioned in comments last week that Adam using the sexual term "interracial creampies" in front of adults was more plausible than I'd suggested, because it likely went over the head of everyone apart from Simon. I can understand the point being made there, so that's fair enough. I'll withdraw that remark, although the moment still irks me. But in this episode Simon himself openly suggested he hire a prostitute to do a toilet on a relative's face! Would you really say that in front of your mum, gran and grandad? Likewise, would your own mother offer you her pubic hairs when she got angry over something?

5. It looks like Grandma's House is going to avoid the potential meta fun of having Simon start creating the sitcom we're now watching. Instead, he's writing a pretentious play about anthropomorphic eggs. Is that itself a credible thing the real Amstell would be doing post-Buzzcocks? But there's maybe time for my prediction to come true in future weeks.

6. I do like the relationship between Simon and his mother's boyfriend Clive. Clive being overfriendly with his potential stepson ("the Captain!") and Simon finding it all very difficult to handle tactfully. The scene with Clive picking fault with Simon's new yellow car and quickly realizing the rear-end's been damaged in a crash was a highlight.

7. A nitpick, but I hate the music stings that signal most scene transitions -- a sort of random beating of pans.

Overall, I'm still not convinced by this new sitcom, really. I didn't laugh openly at any point, I just appreciated a few moments and like the non-Amstell performances. It could all be improved 25% if wasn't autobiographical and someone else was playing the lead -- and not just because the acting would be more convincing. It's at least clear that Amstell (with partner Dan Swimer) does have some writing talent, but if only his ego hadn't convinced him to step in front of the camera.

Did Richard Curtis write himself into a situation where he'd get to kiss Julia Roberts in a movie? No, he called in his on-screen proxy Hugh Grant, who can act the part.

WRITERS: Simon Amstell & Dan Swimer
DIRECTOR: Christine Gernon
CAST: Simon Amstell, Linda Bassett, Rebecca Front, Jamal Hadjkura, Geoffrey Hutchings, Samantha Spiro & James Smith
TRANSMISSION: 16 August 2010 - BBC2/HD, 10PM