Sitcom of the century? Why you don’t get Mrs. Brown’s Boys
Ivan Radford | On 23, Aug 2016
Because people like different things.
That’s the simple reason why you don’t ‘get’ Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Brendan O’Carroll’s sitcom, which regularly pulls in million of viewers and has spawned a big screen spin-off, was named the best British sitcom of the 21st century in a poll today.
Readers of the Radio Times voted from a shortlist of 40 shows compiled by the magazine’s critics and people from the BFI. With just over 14,000 votes cast, Mrs. Brown’s Boys was ranked in first place, above The Office (second), The IT Crowd (fifth), and Gaving & Stacey (seventh).
The series first aired in 2011, with O’Carroll playing Agnes Brown, and promptly built a significant audience, leading to the film and numerous subsequent series and specials. Reviewers, though, have often been less than kind to the show.
“It vindicates the fans’ belief in the show. They have kept us on the air – it certainly wasn’t the reviewers,” Brendan O’Carroll commented of the result. “There is an audience out there that comedy forgot – that Are You Being Served? audience has been left behind. Us winning this award proves that.”
People inevitably took to Twitter to declare their shock, anger and dismay at the result. Channel 4 delivered the best response, pretending to be bitter about not getting the top spot.
So, 'people' have voted Mrs. Brown's Boys as the sitcom of the century… pic.twitter.com/uvDM1eZ2Ap
— Channel 4 (@Channel4) August 23, 2016
While it is possible for those who don’t like the show to write off this win as ‘people being stupid’, though, the fact is that TV is subjective – and comedy is the most subjective TV of all. People have jokingly compared the survey to the recent EU referendum result, but while it’s tempting to think of a divide across the nation existing in all areas of life, but the Radio Times survey shows one thing: different people have different tastes. After all, The Thick of It is in sixth place, while Peep Show is 11th and Green Wing is 13th – all of them showcasing varying types of comedy and connecting with a variety of fans. For me, it’s fantastic to see Sky 1’s Yonderland included in the top 20, as well as BBC Four’s Detectorists. Black Books and W1A are also personal favourites.
“Mrs. Brown provides uncomplicated, relatable chuckles for its target audience,” argues the Radio Times in an accompanying piece defending the show, but dismissing a show as “uncomplicated”, or pandering to it as “relatable” only fosters the sense that complex comedy is accessible to certain people and that those beneath it like cross-dressing Irish men. My 10-year-old nephew is part-Irish and loves Mrs. Brown’s Boys. He’s not an idiot. His mother also likes it. She’s not an idiot either. Both have different tastes, which is fine. Some people like cat videos on YouTube. Other people can’t stand them. The important thing is that we’re all laughing at something.
Here are the full results:
The Top 20 Sitcoms of the 21st Century
1 – Mrs Brown’s Boys, BBC One
2 – The Office, BBC Two
3 – Peter Kay’s Car Share, BBC One
4 – Count Arthur Strong, BBC Two
5 – The IT Crowd, Channel 4
6 – The Thick Of It, BBC Four
7 – Gavin & Stacey, BBC Three
8 – Miranda, BBC Two
9 – Raised By Wolves, Channel 4
10 – Outnumbered, BBC One
11 – Peep Show, Channel 4
12 – Black Books, Channel 4
13 – Green Wing, Channel 4
14 – The Inbetweeners, Channel 4
15 – Bad Education, BBC Three
16 – Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights, Channel 4
17 – Yonderland, Sky 1
18 – Twenty Twelve / W1A, BBC Two
19 – Benidorm, ITV
20 – Detectorists, BBC Four
Photo: BBC One