Ralph Mellon: loves to hate ‘Desperate Housewives’

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I’m an avid watcher of television, as I’ve mentioned many times before. To be more precise, I’m an avid recorder of programmes, then an avid watcher of them.

Recent months have seen a strange trend creeping in, however – I’m spending more and more time watching programmes I hate, but can’t bear to ignore.

It started with ‘Gary: Tank Commander’ and continued with ‘Fresh Meat’ (although nothing personal against Greg McHugh, who’s in both). I found myself wondering how on earth they ever got past the idea stage, never mind reaching our screens. And yet, I watched every episode of them, with grotesque curiosity.

I’ve developed a fierce dislike for ‘Skins’ and ‘Desperate Housewives’, but again, have never missed an episode of either.

‘Skins’ is ploughing the same furrow of sexually reckless student life, shadowed by a disturbing dark edge, and still with its revolving door of central characters. Maybe it annoys me because my late teenage life resembled absolutely nothing like it. That said, I wouldn’t have traded places with any of that lot.

At last, we’re into the final series of ‘Desperate Housewives’ and it’s obvious that nobody connected with it cares any more. Scripts and acting are ridiculous, and the surface gloss and beauty even more shallow than ever.

But quite the worst atrocity to violate the schedules in recent months – and another I cannot tear myself away from – is the appalling ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’.

Developed from stage origins, it clearly has a cult following in its native Ireland, as monumental DVD sales and the commissioning of a THIRD series would indicate. Long-standing fans are quite obviously in on the joke – the problem is, the joke is old, stale, self-indulgent and unfunny.

The central character is gutter-tongued matriarch Agnes Brown, played in drag by Brendan O’Carroll, who also writes the thing. Most of the supporting characters (Brown family siblings and friends) are played by members of his real-life family, virtually none of whom can act.

The whole thing festers like a desperately bad pantomime. Most episodes are full of fluffed lines, clumsy physical mugging, ‘performers’ corpsing and O’Carroll interacting smugly with the camera crew, all to helpless laughter from the audience.

Assuming you can leave this in and get away with this is just a trifle arrogant. And the material is so atrocious, no one could.

Do people think a man dressing as an elderly woman and swearing a lot is funny? It would appear some do. But I’m not one of them. Yet the show’s wretchedness had me captivated every week.

Yes, there’s to be a third series of ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’.

I wish I could understand why. And I wish I could understand why I can’t wait and why I’ll be watching. Avidly.

Ralph Mellon writes for the East Fife Mail