Simon Amstell has made the tricky segway from sarky TV presenter to sitcom actor remarkably well. He stars in his self-penned new comedy Grandma’s House on BBC Two. The first episode, that aired last night, provided an impressive combination of sharp dialogue and edgy jokes.
Simon plays his part just right, although it can’t be too hard since he’s effectively playing himself: a TV presenter who wants to give up his own show for a career in acting. What struck me the most was the fact that, despite constantly ridiculing the rest of his family, Simon himself is not infallible. As much as he is acutely aware of the misgivings of his relations, he makes mistakes too. This makes him all the more human and not above ridicule. It’s a clever move from Simon and co-writer Dan Swimer. The rest of the cast are perfect for their roles as well. Linda Bassett is Grandma, Rebecca Front is his mother and Samantha Spiro plays Aunty Liz. A modern version of The Royle Family. The comparisons to the comedy classic are not unfounded. Grandma’s House has the same kind of pace to it, with a similar reliance on dialogue, rather than physical comedy. Thank goodness the jokes actually are funny, otherwise the whole thing would fall flat on its face.
On paper, this should’ve been a disaster but, in reality, Simon Amstell has comfortably transitioned from reading an autocue to reading scripts! It’s not, by any means, the comedy of the year. But it’s still well worth tuning into.