'Grandma's House' Series 2, Episode 1: 'The Day Simon Officially Became a Very Good and Totally Employable Actor' // Words: Saam Das
SYNOPSIS: "Sitcom. Simon is living with Grandma, six months since Grandpa died. He has lost his presenting career." (bbc.co.uk)
Change: yes we can? Well, certainly writers Simon Amstell and Dan Swimer have introduced a great deal of change in the new series of 'Grandma's House', an off-kilter sitcom based around a fictionalised version of Amstell's own family life. Gone are Simon's job, flat, and Grandpa (the late Geoffrey Hutchings). It's a brave new world, but the plentiful witticisms of the past remain.
Opening in a somewhat risqué fashion involving Simon rather undressed with a young suitor in Grandpa's box room, the first episode of the new series brings together many of the characters featured heavily in the first series. Tanya (Rebecca Front) and Liz (Samantha Spiro) are at odds with each other following their father's funeral, while Clive (James Smith) is desperate to reignite his relationship with the completely disinterested Tanya.
Grandma (Linda Bassett) continues on her merry path of sweetly manipulating her family members so that everyone just gets along. She is still clearly struggling however with the death of her husband - reflected in his empty chair remaining in the living room, which ends up being a plot device. And an ash tray of sorts.
As can be expected with anything Amstell is involved with, 'Grandma's House' showcases a great deal of sharp wit, often delivered in a confusingly squeaky yet deadpan manner. The writing has becoming increasingly meta, with dialogue surrounding Amstell's ability to act (which has improved) and the depth of his programme - "I mean, what do people want? Just a load of ludicrous characters walking in and out of rooms, doing something funny?" - cue Clive entering and doing something silly.
'The Day Simon Officially Became a Very Good and Totally Employable Actor' also takes a slightly more edgy path compared to previous episodes - with Simon quite possibly being date raped by someone who may well actually be underage, although the implications of this are rather overlooked in favour of humour. Which is to be expected in a sitcom, although perhaps would have been best avoided.
Uncomfortable viewing is very much part of the agenda of 'Grandma's House' though, with the cringeworthy attempts of Clive to woo Tanya and his dubious banter with Simon, including the golden line about engaging in sexual relations with a younger partner - "when there's grass on the wicket, let's play cricket". But it is the awkwardness that helps Amstell's humour thrive, and the signs are already positive for another excellent series of 'Grandma's House'.
Watch 'Grandma's House' Series 2, Episode 1 on BBC iPlayer.