Vincent Franklin’s first appearance in Simon Amstell’s hit BBC 2 sitcom took place last night, when he joined the regular cast as Uncle Barry.
Yesterday, Radio Times, declared that series two had stepped up a gear when the previously unseen Uncle Barry – husband of Simon’s Aunt Liz (Samantha Spiro) – made a rare visit to the eponymous grandma’s house.
Described as “a tedious, self-important git with post-nasal drip”, Uncle Barry has a morbid obsession with rolling-news channels, and Franklin brings it off brilliantly.
In 2009, Vincent Franklin appeared as Dr Bree in the Jane Campion-directed Bright Star, which told the three-year love affair between the 19th-century poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). But it is for two other well-received BBC 2 sitcoms that he is best known for. He played Stewart Pearson in Armando Iannucci’s The Thick of It, which satirises the inner workings of modern British government; and Nick Jowett in the fly-on-the-wall-type Twenty Twelve, which follows the work of the fictional Olympic Deliverance Commission (ODC), tasked to organise the 2012 London Olympics.
The Day that ...In each episode of Grandma’s House, “Simon’s family congregate to catch up. Everything happens under the watchful eye of Grandma, who is desperate to see everything going well.” Basically, Amstell is playing a version of himself – an out-gay Jewish man who is a stand-up comedian and successful television presenter who gives up his career to search for meaning in his life.
In last night’s episode, “The Day Simon Thought It May be a Good Idea to Find New Living Arrangements”, Simon saw an opportunity to move out of his grandma’s house in Gants Hill, after finding out that his uncle had an empty Soho flat on his hands. However, in a brilliant turn form Franklin, the miserable Barry was less than keen to oblige.
Despite there being a number of excellent dramas currently being broadcast on British television – Homeland (Channel 4), The Bridge (BBC 4) and The Syndicate (BBC 1) are just three that come immediately to mind – Grandma’s House is the one that, if I had to choose, I would watch over the others every time.
Every character stands out, but its Amstell’s fictionalised self that makes the programme tick, with Christopher Hooton describing him perfectly as “[at] the centre […] yet simultaneously orbiting at the edges of it. Distant and an alien in his own life.”
As well as Simon Amstell as Simon Amstell, each episode of Grandma’s House features Linda Basset as Grandma, Rebecca Front as Simon’s mother, Tanya, Jamal Hadjkura as his nephew, Adam, James Smith as Tanya’s on–off fiancé, Clive, and Samantha Spiro as Simon’s Auntie Liz.
As reported byDigital Journal last week, episode 1 of the current series introduced Oliver Coopersmith as Mark. Geoffrey Hutchings, who played Grandpa, died shortly before transmission of the first series. Series two takes place six months after the character’s death. However, his presence has remained strong throughout the first two episodes, and last night’s ends with a gag about Jurassic Park, in what the Mirror describes as “one-liner of the year”, when Simon and Adam unearth Grandpa’s little secret up in the loft.
What difference a year and a half makes
The first series of Grandma’s House received a luke-warm reaction from critics – though the Jewish Chronicledeclared it “genius”. Viewers, however, were much more positive, and the programme aquired an instant loyal following.
Ahead of series two, the critics seemed to be onboard, too; and post-transmission reviews so far have given it nothing but praise.
Metrogave its verdict after the first two episodes, saying: “It’s incredible to think this is Amstell’s first sitcom, with the characters being marvellously well-observed and […] trite questions met with existential answers, there is a lot to love about this show [and] Amstell is the star attraction […]Grandma's House really is a triumph.”
Series 2 of Grandma’s House continues on Thursdays, on BBC 2, at 10 p.m. The series was created by and co-written by Dan Swimer and Simon Amstell. Series 2 is produced by Arnold Widdowson and directed by Christine Gernon.
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