Friday Night Dinner is a fast-paced and brilliantly written sitcom about the slightly dysfunctional and entirely deranged Goodman family. Although the brand new series three has recently been shown on television (Channel 4), I have been catching up on all of the previous series as well as this one, with each being equally as strong as the last.
The format is relatively simple: it follows the family every week, where the boys visit their parents for Friday night dinner. The true skill here is evident in the excellent script writing (the programme is written and produced by the insanely talented Robert Popper) for the conversations are utterly insane but have been injected with a surprising amount of wit. The characters in the programme are consistently getting themselves into terrible situations, often involving difficult grandparents, girlfriends and troublesome neighbours.
Friday Night Dinner is one of the rare television programmes that has a solid cast through and through, with the four recurring characters consisting of two grown-up sons, Jonny and Adam (played by Tom Rosenthal and Simon Bird respectively) and unlikely married couple: Martin and Jackie (Paul Ritter and Tamsin Greig). As well as this, the fantastically talented Mark Heap plays the family’s sinister neighbour: Jim Bell, a character that has had me crying with laughter on multiple occasions.
My favourite character would have to be Jim. With his seemingly irrational fear of his Belgian Shepard, Wilson, and obvious lack of social skills teamed up with the fact he clearly fancies Jackie, every encounter with this tricky neighbour is absolutely hilarious. Mark Heap is a very talented comedic actor and this is made apparent through his uncanny ability to generate a laugh from the viewer purely from a facial expression or body stance. Heap has been given the role of a very typical comedy trope but has managed to make it his own, whilst demonstrating originality and skill.
It is hard to single out any other stand out actors in this programme because they are all undeniably outstanding, with Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal effortlessly filling the role of annoying, immature, and yet somehow loveable young men and Tamsin Greig and Paul Ritter adding an interesting twist to their parenting personas. The character of Martin (Ritter) triggers many of the biggest laughs in each episode with his absurd catchphrase: “Shit on it!” and generally stupid and disgusting antics whereas Jackie (Greig) has expertly mastered the art of suggesting her emotions through her facial expressions, which has amusing consequences.
Friday Night Dinner deals with multiple recurring jokes that the viewer can never tire of, such as the way Jim always gets confused between Adam and Jonny:
Jonny: “Jim have you seen Adam?”
Jim: “I thought you were Adam?”
Jim is also ignorant regarding the family’s Jewish heritage, but not necessarily Jewish faith. He often tries to join in on their ‘Jewish traditions’ such as fashioning himself a “Jewish hat” and presenting them with a Schmoigle which is an offering of a basket of fruit.
This is easily one of my favourite sitcoms of all time and I hope there are many more series to come. You can catch up on all previous episodes from the past three series on 4OD.
I will leave you with the words of Jim: “Thank you all for the lovely evening. Well, except for everything that happened.”