Taken as individual elements, this brand new studio-based comedy offers nothing original, but cumulatively it makes for a heady confection of madcap weirdness, a stream of hit-and-miss jokes, and bemusement. Mrs Brown's Boys is a TV adaptation of material that's already formed the basis of four popular stage plays by Irish writer-performer Brendan O'Carroll, playing his alter-ego Agnes Brown; a sharp-tongued, interfering Dublin mother-of-six.
In an echo of It's Garry Shandling's Show, Mrs Brown is fully aware "she" is a drag act on a TV sitcom, and regularly breaks the fourth wall to address the studio audience. In one scene, Mrs Brown even dashes from the "pub" set to the "kitchen" set to grab a forgotten handbag, with the camera breaking the show's reality by filming her studio run. There's something very bracing about Mrs Brown's Boys, as it's been so long since I've seen a comedy quite like it (although it shares DNA with Miranda, which also breaks the fourth wall), but I'm not yet convinced it'll have staying power once the novelty of its format fades.
To be positive, creator/star O'Carroll is a whirlwind of energy and leaves a crater-sized impression as the vociferous matriarch. The fact Mrs Brown has been "rehearsed" hundreds of times on-stage means the pace and jokes flowed like mercury. O'Carroll's script spewed all manner of broad jokes and sight gags at a hectic pace, although quite a few appeared to be appropriations of jokes I've heard elsewhere. The Irish characters couldn't help evoking memories of the dearly missed Father Ted (Irish accents are inherently amusing to me), although the supporting cast felt trapped in the orbit of Brendan O'Carroll, whose eponymous character tended to overshadow everyone and everything. Hopefully some of the supporting characters will come into their own soon, but I get the impression this show exists to have Mrs Brown careening around the set -- cracking jokes, electrocuting herself with a stun-gun she mistakes for a phone, getting stuck in a furry penguin-head, and falling over a great deal.
It was unbridled chaos at times, capturing the feeling of a live show extremely well, while unafraid to drop F(eck)-bombs into the fast-and-furious dialogue. However, the show made me feel dizzy after 10-minutes, and in the cold light of day I can barely remember the plot or half the jokes. Mrs Brown's Boys is the kind of zany comedy you perhaps need a few week's to acclimatize to before delivering a final verdict. I'm exhausted just thinking about coming back for more.