FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER (BBC America) “The Dress” Review

Friday Night Dinner S1

FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER “The Dress” Season 1, Episode 4 — As a long-time fan of British comedy, what can I say about Friday Night Dinner, the latest import to hit BBC America? It certainly has its funny moments, sublime bits of subtle, but effective comedic timing for which the British have always been lauded. But on the whole, I can’t say I’m extremely impressed with the show so far, in particular this week’s episode “The Dress.”

The concept is simple. Authoritative mother Jackie (Tamsin Greig), idiotic father Martin (Paul Ritter) and two feuding man-child brothers Adam and Jonny (Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal) gather on Friday nights to share dinner and insults. It’s like Malcolm in the Middle: The Later Years. With accents.

I can’t fault the actors for my ambivalence. They’re brilliant and their performances probably account for 90% of why the show is watchable at all. I think what I’m missing is a driving story line. It seems like all we’re getting is a thirty-minute peek into their lives with no real problems or resolutions. And while I’m all for the slice-of-life approach to art, I feel like such great actors deserve to chew on more substantial scenes.

This week’s episode centered around Jackie’s sister Val (Tracy Ann-Oberman, who Doctor Who fans know as Yvonne, the former head of Torchwood turned Cyberman) and the dress she’s bought for her daughter’s wedding. For some reason, Jackie expects her husband and her twenty-something sons to be as excited about seeing the dress as she is. Right away, you can be pretty sure that something bad is going to happen to that garment. Its fate is sealed.

“Something bad” winds up being Martin (of course), who accidentally tosses the dress onto the bonfire he’s reluctantly started on Jackie’s orders to get rid of his useless science magazines and very creepy porn collection. I have to admit, I’ve never seen a connect the dots sex guide on TV before and I probably never will again.

Woven into all of this is Adam and Jonny’s continuing quest to torture each other, like proper brothers. I can’t tell if I love this or if I’m already tired of it. Yes, siblings are required to tease one another and even play the occasional trick, but usually by their twenties, they’ve at least agreed to bring it down to the level of adults. Adam and Jonny have not. They continue to pour salt in each other’s drinks and sabotage each other’s love lives. I have yet to see them connect on anything other than their shared certainty that their father has lost one or more of his marbles.

There was also a very weird bit with their stalker neighbor, his missing dog and shoes, but I confess, even with the subtitles on, I missed what was going on there. Mostly because it wasn’t interesting or relevant to the plot.

I think Friday Night Dinner has potential, but I do wonder…what criteria goes into selecting which British TV shows make it across the pond? Was this a massive hit in Britain or is this the equivalent of us sending them According to Jim?

What did you think of the show? Do you think BBC America’s Ministry of Laughs needs a new PM? Are you just biding your time until Doctor Who starts up again next week? Let me know below!!