4 out of 5
Created by: Brian Gleeson and Domhnall Gleeson, as well as Michael Moloney
covers season 1
Commit to the bit. That’s Frank of Ireland’s key to success, although based on reviews I sifted through, it doesn’t seem like most are necessarily convinced it is a success, but I suppose that’s based on how much you like the bit: of 30thirtysomething Frank (Brian Gleeson) acting like a wholly selfish, uneducated, ignorant child. And I might be with you if that was the extent of things, but the commitment is applying this mentality to everyone in Frank’s circle: his friend, Doofus (Brian’s real-life brother, Domhnall Gleeson); his mother, Mary (Pom Boyd); his on-again / off-again girlfriend, Aine (Sarah Greene); Aine’s sudden fiancé, Peter-Brian (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor). The local church-goers get in on this, as does Doofus’ recent crush, fight instructor Nicola (Liz Fitzgibbon). No one is safe. No one looks on with a wary eye and wonders how these people can function in their totally non-functional ways and still survive, Frank abusing Doofus’ dedication to him to jump-start a non-existent music career; Mary drinking non-stop and waking up with a new young beau in bed each morn. This fulfills one of the keys for me to enjoy parodic comedy of this type: everyone is part of the joke. And then to prevent things from becoming just a series of gags, you wrap this around a narrative, allowing things to bounce between the characters with something like a trajectory. No lessons are learned, for sure, and the plot/s can still be summed up as “Frank does nothing and goes nowhere and acts like a baby about it,” but, again, it’s the commitment: within this world, the threads connecting all the nonsense are consistent, and make sense.
Given that, if you’re on board with jokes that confuse MDMA with MMA, or Frank using a funeral as a forum for his songwriting craft, or slapstick humor in which searching for something requires smashing everything in sight – and this is totally normal – then there’s plenty to laugh at in Frank of Ireland, and the gung-ho way in which it pursues its particular bit is quite hilarious in and of itself, giving the show a unique, insular flavor of ridiculousness. Some jokes surely don’t land, and the focus on Frank means the Aine / Peter-Brian storyline – a quite smart and outlandish parallel to Frank’s own “issues” – is relegated to a B-plot, when there’s probably a smarter show that strings various things with equal focus, but nonetheless, there’s always something stupid and silly to laugh out only seconds away, and a total short runtime of six eps allows for the success rate of such silliness to be kept at very high levels throughout.