New to BBC America is Friday Night Dinner. “The Jingle,” which is actually episode two, kicked off the series last night, while episode one will air next week. Friday Night Dinner is a sitcom about, appropriately enough, two Jewish parents and their grown sons coming together to dine at the end of the week. In “The Jingle,” Adam Goodman (Simon Bird, The Inbetweeners) is proud to tell his family that a jingle he wrote will be on the radio that night. Brother Jonny Goodman (Tom Rosenthal) teases Adam that Jonny is not their mother’s, Jackie Goodman (Tamsin Greig, Episodes), favorite. Father Martin Goodman (Paul Ritter, Vera) keeps trying to discretely inspect something in his underpants with a magnifying glass. Add to this chaos, neighbor Jim (Mark Heap, Lark Rise to Candleford) keeps stopping by to speak with Jackie, and things turn a bit hectic.
As sitcoms go, this one is fair. There are some real laugh out loud moments, such as when Jonny texts Adam from Jackie’s phone, saying Adam is a failed abortion. Or when the whole family crams into the bathroom as Martin tries to instruct Adam on how to look for girls on the internet. Of course the porn jokes flow freely, though not in an obscene way. But many of the other bits, such as the brothers salting each others’ waters, or anything with Jim in it, fall flat. Perhaps the writers are trying to cram too many jokes into the half hour, and overall quality suffers because of it.
The characters are a bit better than fair. Greig brings the same wonderful talent that she brought to Episodes, though in a completely different character. Instead of being a smart and confident career woman, Jackie is the supportive mother. It is interesting, and realistic, how each parent favors one of the sons. Sibling rivalry is spot on. The family’s interaction feels authentic, and makes for a pretty believable half hour, if nothing else. Even Heap, who doesn’t get any actually funny material to work in “The Jingle” seems to be on his game. As this is the first episode that airs, it is likely to get better as the performers take over more forcefully the roles they inhabit so well.
What really hurts Friday Night Dinners is that it follows Outnumbered, another family-based sitcom that is superior in humor, and has the draw of young kids saying the darndest things, almost always a winner if done properly. If Friday Night Dinner stands alone, it may fare better, as there wouldn’t the immediate opportunity for comparison. As it is, Friday Night Dinner is worth watching, but I recommend using your DVR to reverse the order you view the BBC America sitcoms in.
Friday Night Dinner airs, strangely enough, Saturday nights at 11:30 p.m. ET on BBC America.