Since leaving Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Simon Amstell has been toiling hard. His stand-up tour, Do Nothing, received glowing reviews for its heartfelt and honest approach with its entire Edinburgh Fringe run being sold out.
It’s obvious to any follower of his work that, following his ‘cheeky’ and ‘charming’ style on the BBC’s flagship music-themed comedy panel show, Amstell is determined to let his own personality shine through in his writing. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the domestic sitcom Grandma’s House.
The second series begins with an awkward and brilliantly cringe-worthy bang. After being drugged at an unseen party, Simon Amstell (played by himself) finds himself waking up with a 16 year old classmate of his younger cousin.
After quitting his job as the presenter of a comedy panel quiz, Amstell is living back in his grandmother’s home following the death of his grandfather – who had to be written out following the sad death of actor Geoffrey Hutchings.
With conflict between his siblings, and a cliché-laden suitor singing Michael Jackson’s ‘You Are Not Alone’ to his mother, Simon tries to deal with the stressful situation as best he can, at one point offering to juggle to appease the dinner guests.
Adding to its farcical nature, Grandma’s House is highly self-deprecating and ‘meta-comedic’, which may be a boon or a detriment to its quality depending on your point of view. Following the first series, Amstell had been criticised by many for his self-conscious and naturalistic acting style, including Jonathan Ross, who had joked that he ‘was so wooden Ray Mears had tried to build a canoe out of him’.
In a retort, Simon plays with his critics in the beginning of this new series. When discussing losing a part on a show where he would play himself, and questioned by his mum on his performance skills, Amstell responds ‘I’m doing vulnerability, it’s not about talking loudly’, before going on to say ‘I’m stiff in real life!’
If you’re a fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm, then this show may satisfy your lust for an English version (if you felt so inclined). Simon Amstell’s version of Larry David is less pernickety, but equally neurotic.
Although not ‘laugh-out-loud’ funny all the time, Grandma’s House does have moments of pithy genius, and it’s a breath of fresh air when compared to many recent laugh-track sitcoms.