Words: Paul Dean
'Grandma's House' Episode Two: 'The Day Simon Decided It Might Be A Nice Idea To Surprise His Mother With A Gift'
SYNOPSIS: "Simon brings his mum Tanya an extravagant gift which she refuses to accept. He also tries to convince her that maybe she shouldn't marry Clive. It's Liz's birthday, but nobody seems to care, and Grandad has news from the doctor about his cancer scare. When Simon decides he might write a play for the theatre, the family aren't impressed."
Whatever it is that's missing from 'Grandma's House', I still can't quite put my finger on it. I can't find it. I can't place it.
It's not the characters or the cast, certainly, as the former are wryly-written and are forever bouncing off each other, perfectly choreographed in what seems like an endless ballet of bitterness. The latter represent some of the best on British television and give good performances with some fine comic timing.
It's not the writing, either. The dialogue is smartly punctuated by snide little barbs, laced with poisonous invectives, making every gathering of Simon Amstell's fictional family more of a skirmish or, perhaps, an unpleasant and ongoing collection of character assassination attempts. I think the family dynamic ensures there are always the same winners and losers, but the battles are still rather satisfying to watch.
It might be that I've simply missed the point and that 'Grandma's House' isn't supposed to make me laugh at its bickering, its awkwardness and its snide comments. The uncomfortable moments and the social ineptitude aren't meant to be funny in the way that they are in, say, 'The Office'. We might instead be supposed to *endure* the fictional Amstell's difficult visits to meet his family. We take the same horrible trip that he does through monotony, bigotry and self-interest, and we're also hoping he'll succeed in his attempts to pull them away from such things.
The final moments of this 'Grandma's House' this week were firmly rooted in the tragicomic and I found them unexpectedly touching. This is developing into a show about a sensitive young man who clearly cares for their family and is repeatedly struggling to relate to them and to connect with them, despite being so obviously different. That's something many of us can understand. Of course, the series is still new and it remains to see quite what direction it takes, but I'm willing to remain open-minded.
Amstell really needs to be less squeaky, though. Good heavens.
[WATCH] until 10:29pm, Monday 20th September 2010.