Frank of Ireland, written by Michael Moloney and brothers Brian and Domhnall Gleeson, follows narcissistic man-child, Frank (Brian), as he navigates dysfunctional relationships with his mother and ex-girlfriend and his failed music career. Backed-up at all times by his side-kick Doofus (Domhnall), blindly following his hair-brain schemes and spelling disaster for everyone in their wake.
Written by Tresca Mallon
The show is a complete departure from the brothers’ usual onscreen work. There is a natural ease between them that is born from a lifetime of comfortability. They are obviously having so much fun and it’s impossible not to be infected by the enthusiasm they have for both the characters and the story. The humour is slapstick, with a lot of fart jokes, and no less than two boner gags in just the first episode. The short run time (25 mins) is ideal as any longer and these jokes would’ve become stale. Episode 1 has the most laugh out loud moments with some brilliantly written and comedic timed lines. However, the momentum takes a dip in episode 2 which focuses primarily on the overriding story line of Frank’s confusing relationship with Áine and her pretentious new boyfriend P.B (Tom Vaughn-Lawlor). Episode 3 we get some great physical comedy from Pom Boyd, who plays Frank’s mother Mary. Equally as self-centred as her son, overtly sexual and outrageously foul-mouthed, Mary is unquestionably the show’s highlight, with an unfortunately small amount of screen time. Episode 4 has an ‘Almost Sunny in Philadelphia’ feel and the slapstick humour reaches a peak as the characters take part in an all female version of 12 Angry Men. After a mediocre episode five, the finale, which includes a guest appearance from the incomparable Brendan Gleeson, does a solid job of wrapping the season and bringing the calibre of humour back to the level of the pilot.
Brian is an underappreciated presence with excellent comedic timing. However, the character of Frank is a completely unsupportable protagonist. While every other character, especially Áine, seems inexplicably drawn to Frank, I found it hard to find charm in his one-note egotism. A character does not need to be likeable for an audience to root for them. In fact, it has become a sitcom staple for the protagonist to be an out-and-out asshole. Frank’s lack of redeeming qualities should be counteracted by humour, but, unfortunately, the laugh out loud moments from him are few and far between. Conversely, the character’s stunted growth is quite pathetic and at times depressing, at odds with the lighthearted nature of the comedy.
Domhnall, given the funnier lines, is a natural dork and so excels as the clueless but devoted best friend. Doofus, whose name is disappointingly on-the-nose, while playing the role of dumb sidekick also randomly acts as Frank’s voice of reason. It’s difficult to pinpoint the level of consciousness at which both characters function, as they seem to fluctuate from somewhat cognisant to downright bat-shit.
Poor Aine! We are constantly being told that Frank’s ex is boring as a running gag. However, we are given little indication of this in Sarah Greene’s performance. She is often the other characters’ punching bag and is the overused butt of many jokes, a bit like Meg in Family Guy. Beyond that, her character is pretty innocuous and her unfathomable attraction to both Frank and P.B is the bulk of her personality.
Frank of Ireland feels like a work in progress, from the title of the show itself to a number of underdeveloped plot lines. There is room for an added layer of depth for most of the characters. This would allow the audience to root for them and care about the outcome of the 6 episode arc. Despite the faint whiff of wasted potential, this is a bold comedy for fans of toilet humour that offers complete escapism. While belly laughs are sparse, a short burst of mindless fun is guaranteed!